Vettel’s social issues: ‘not the most popular driver’ for F1 bosses
Four-time world champion Sebastian Vettel has said that his social commitment is not to the liking of everyone in the Formula One business.
Vettel has spoken out on environmental issues such as supporting a speed limit on highways in his native Germany and has also been critical of Russia's invasion of Ukraine and the staging of races in countries with autocratic regimes.
In a joint interview with compatriot climate activist Luisa Neubauer conducted by dpa, public broadcasters ARD and the Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung daily, Vettel said that "there is sometimes panic when these issues arise.
"There are some people who would very much like to influence what I say. They want to minimise the confrontation risk.
"I am not exactly the most popular driver in the eyes of Formula One organizers. But no one can tell me what I am supposed to say and not to say, even if what I say doesn't go down well," he said.
Vettel said he is trying to avoid flying as much as possible by driving to certain races in Europe. He spoke of "steps that I can take" while adding "I have no incentive to convert people" and "I don't want to say I'm the role model now."
Aston Martin driver Vettel is yet to recover from a coronavirus infection and will miss the weekend's race in Saudi Arabia, one of the countries under the spotlight over its human rights record and its role in the war in Yemen.
Vettel said that boycotting such races would be difficult and even though it is not easy as a "paid guest" prefers a different approach.
"We represent our Western values, show our freedom and stand up for it," he said.
Also looking at the cancellation of the Russian GP in the wake of the invasion in Ukraine, Vettel said "values should be decisive and not financial attractiveness" when it comes to choosing F1 hosts.
Neubauer, a key figure in Germany's section of the Fridays for Future movement, said that big sports bodies like F1 or football's FIFA, under fire over the upcoming 2022 World Cup in Qatar, are not doing enough.
""What saddens me is the inconsistency of large institutions like FIFA or Formula 1 in relation to human rights violations," Neubauer said.
"They also drag sport into a corner where it doesn't have to be, and with it the fans and sports enthusiasts.
"If you go to places where human rights are violated you have to face the conditions and have the courage to speak out. And to demand changes from the position of power,” Neubauer said.