Amid reports the drivers were warned about the possible consequences if they had boycotted the Saudi Arabian Grand Prix, Sebastian Vettel has asked “how brave can you be when you are a paid guest?”
Despite the drivers raising safety concerns on Friday night after a missile attack on an oil facility just nine miles from the Jeddah Corniche Circuit where they are racing this weekend, Formula 1 decided to proceed with the Saudi Arabian GP race weekend.
But that, say BBC Sport, was only after the drivers were told about the “possible consequences of not racing, such as how easily teams and drivers would be able to leave the country if the race did not happen”.
An ominous statement given the country’s poor human rights record.
While some people in the paddock, such as former driver turned commentator Ralf Schumacher, decided to leave, the drivers had to get on with the job at hand.
Drivers were warned of 'consequences of not racing'
— PlanetF1 (@Planet_F1) March 26, 2022
Vettel, who is not in Saudi Arabia after testing positive for Covid-19, concedes it is not easy finding balance.
“How independent can you be when you are on the payroll?” the Aston Martin driver told DPA’s Christian Hollmann. “You could say boycott, don’t even go there.
“On the other hand, you can go there with the thought: we represent our Western values, show our freedom and stand up for it.
“The question is how brave you can be when you are a paid guest.
“It’s not like Formula 1 chooses that on the map. It’s more that countries are approaching Formula 1 and it’s part of the business model that venues are putting a lot of money into it.
“Do you dare to do something about it when you are there? On the other hand, there are certain values we must stand up for because they outweigh financial interests.”
Asked what he felt Formula 1 should do, Vettel replied: “You have to take sport as a general obligation. It’s a balancing act between financial interests, to carry out the sport as we know it, and critical observation.
“It’s not just about Saudi Arabia and Bahrain, the Olympics were in China. The question is how many countries are left just by looking at the Formula 1 calendar.
“But actually it should be a simple question. It’s all about role models, especially for young people.
“On one hand it’s entertainment, on the other hand you also have responsibility and you should make sure you go ahead with the right values and symbols.”