These are not good times for Sebastian Vettel. First of all, the German driver contracted COVID-19 and missed the first two races of the 2022 Formula 1 season. “It affected me quite a bit,” the German confessed on his return to the circuits.
Then the Australian Grand Prix, his first race of the year, did not go according to plan, but the sporting aspects are not the only thing that worries the four-time world champion.
During his absence from the grid, Vettel watched from his home, through television, the explosion at the Aramco headquarters in the Saudi Arabian GP, one of the partners of Formula 1 but also of his team, Aston Martin. This fact, which was considered an attack, left the category in suspense. Would the weekend resume or would racing be stopped? The answer was the first after a long meeting of the pilots.
After an initial threat to boycott the remainder of the grand prix, they agreed to go ahead with it. Vettel, for his part, says that at the time he was happy because “I wasn’t there”. However, he does not dare to judge the decisions of his companions.
“Personally, I can’t say what my reaction would have been. On the one hand, [there was] a very clear voice saying that I wouldn’t be driving. On the other hand, as I said, I wasn’t there,” explained the German.
“At some point, I don’t think [it’s still] justifiable to go to certain places or certain countries. I mean, we’re not going to Russia this year and everyone understands why. Saudi Arabia has been in conflict with Yemen since 2015 and , still, we made the decision, F1 made the decision to go there.”
The reasons for this choice are very “clear”, according to Vettel. “It’s raining a lot of money. I think that, for the future, you have to ask yourself, especially after what has happened, which is a terrible example: how far do you have to go? What is justifiable? It doesn’t matter how much money receive”.
Formula 1 collects approximately 90 million euros for each Saudi Arabian Grand Prix held at the Jeddah circuit. Vettel believes that since there is revenue to be made, that money should at least be used to make things better. “The question is how much you receive and if you use it to improve the situation.”
But that Formula 1 goes to Saudi Arabia is not the only thing that makes Sebastian Vettel uneasy. The German is very worried about the world political situation due to the war in the Ukraine . The German had already announced his refusal to race in Russia before the grand prix was cancelled.
“I’m in shock,” says the 34-year-old pilot. “I can’t even imagine what’s going on there. Every time you think it can’t get any worse, there’s new terrifying news. Innocent people are dying. Women and children are being killed. It’s terrible.”
Vettel asks “to do everything possible to help those affected”, and wants to mention some specific things: “Many people offer accommodation. Many of the things that are needed now are very simple: food, blankets, diapers, what you need to live And to get these things, we need money.”
Formula 1 was part of these efforts. Before the Bahrain Grand Prix, the drivers organized a photo session to show their solidarity with Ukraine. And on the starting grid of the first race there was advertising for a UNICEF fundraiser (information on their website). F1 itself and the teams also made donations.
For the Germans it is a bit more complicated, as they rely heavily on fossil fuels from Russia, but there are already discussions about whether an embargo should be placed on them. Vettel assures that “I am not in a position to judge it. There are real experts [in this matter], I think you should trust those people,” he explained in an interview with Sky.
Despite this, the pilot, who is a self-confessed voter of the German Green Party, advocates turning off the oil and gas tap, although he is also aware that it sounds easier than it is. “Of course I understand that there is a list of things to consider if you turn off the tap overnight. On the other hand, I think the risk is there anyway, with the crazy guy on the other side.”
The four-time Formula 1 world champion is aware that the end of the supply of fossil fuels from Russia would have drastic consequences for Germany. But, as a self-proclaimed optimist, he also sees “the possibility of changing things for the better. And I think you have to have the courage to face things. Even if it seems impossible at the moment.”
“I think if things get shut down overnight, there will be solutions. And I don’t think the whole world freezes and everything collapses and there’s anarchy, but we should have a little bit more confidence in ourselves and come to something. The solutions are already there. We have to start applying them,” concluded Vettel.