Sebastian Vettel has dodged questions surrounding his personal views about Formula 1 racing in Saudi Arabia.
Concerns have been raised from human rights organisations about the suitability of hosting a race in the Kingdom, which has a reputation for attempted ‘sportswashing’ to give them standing on a world stage, despite worries surrounding the welfare of some of their citizens.
The race in Jeddah is still on a tight time schedule to be ready by the time Formula 1 is due to head there, but Vettel was not keen to answer questions about his own views of racing in the country.
The four-time World Champion has been vocal on his views surrounding human rights, the environment and LGBTQ+ issues this season – with such moves as wearing a rainbow t-shirt in Hungary and organising a litter pick to help clear up after the British Grand Prix.
He said recently that sportspeople “cannot duck anymore” when it comes to causes they are passionate about, citing the need for people to see “the bigger picture” on global issues rather than looking solely through the sport itself when travelling the world.
However, when it came to questions about heading to Jeddah, he was not as forthcoming in his answers on this occasion.
When asked in Qatar if he was looking forward to the next race in Saudi Arabia, he replied with a: “No.”
But after a short pause and what GP Fans described as a ‘slightly nervous giggle’, he elaborated: “I don’t know. It’s a new track, so we will see.”
But when pressed by his interviewer whether or not he had “personal doubts about visiting the country for obvious reasons”, Vettel responded with a smile and simply stated: “Next questions.”
Regarding his race in Qatar as a whole, though, he managed to recover from a poor start which saw him drop to the back of the pack to take a P10 finish, and he felt reasonably satisfied with how his race panned out.
“I was a bit squeezed, didn’t have anywhere to go, tried to go round the outside but it was sandier than I expected,” he said about his first lap struggles.
“There was a lot of dust, a lot of cars around, and I lost the car on the entry to turn one trying to recover some positions and went wide, and lost basically all the positions. I had to give way to the cars on the inside. It was a struggle.
“It’s frustrating because the car was quick once we were in free air, having the same pace on the softs as the cars in front.
“We came from 18th back to P10 which is a reasonable recovery but not ideal because we lost too much ground at the start.
“I overtook an AlphaTauri and a McLaren, so it was a strong race but obviously starting on the backfoot hurts.”