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Vettel feels a sense of responsibility to speak about climate change, LGBTQ issues

MONTREAL — Sebastian Vettel arrived at the Montreal Grand Prix wearing his thoughts about climate change on his T-shirt.
Aston Martin Formula One driver Sebastian Vettel, of Germany, wears a patch on his helmet denouncing Canada's oil sands during the first practice session at the Canadian Grand Prix Friday, June 17, 2022 in Montreal.THE CANADIAN PRESS/Ryan Remiorz

MONTREAL — Sebastian Vettel arrived at the Montreal Grand Prix wearing his thoughts about climate change on his T-shirt.

The Formula One star from Germany arrived at Circuit Gilles Villeneuve in a T-shirt with "Stop Mining Tar Sands," and "Canada's Climate Crime" under the picture of a pipeline. He's wearing a helmet with the same slogan this weekend.

“I think what happens in Alberta is a crime because you chop down a lot of trees and you basically destroy the place just to extract oil and the manner of doing it with the tarsands, oilsands mining, is horrible for nature," Vettel said, when asked about the T-shirt at a news conference Friday. "There's so much science around the topic that fossil fuels are going to end, and living in a time that we do now these things shouldn't be allowed anymore and they shouldn’t happen."

"It's just to think about future generations and the world we leave in their hands … it's only fair to look after it and not destroy it." 

It's not the first time the Aston Martin driver has used his platform to address environmental issues. At the Miami Grand Prix last month, he wore a shirt that read: "Miami 2060 — 1st Grand Prix Underwater — Act Now or Swim Later."

His pipeline shirt created a buzz on social media, with many calling Vettel a hypocrite for competing in a gas-guzzling sport like Formula One. His team Aston Martin is sponsored by Saudi Arabia's state-owned oil giant Aramco.

The father of three told the BBC last month that his concerns about climate change have made him question his Formula One job.

"There's questions I ask myself every day and I'm not a saint," Vettel said. "Certain things are in my control and certain things are not. It's my passion to drive a car, I love it and every time I step in the car I love it.

"When I get out of the car, of course I'm thinking as well 'Is this something that we should do, travel the world, wasting resources?'"

The four-time world champion arrived at the track on a bike adorned with the LGBTQ rainbow, and said he feels a sense of responsibility to "reach people" through his platform.

"When it comes to human rights, or equal treatment, those things are big, when it comes to the climate crisis, which affects every one of us already today and more so in the future — they deserve to be addressed, and (I'm) trying to reach people and raise awareness."

Why are those issues important to him?

"It's just fair, it's just the right thing, it naturally feels like the right thing to talk about and to express my support for people who suffer from prejudice, just because maybe they fall in love with another man or with another woman, or because they are different colour skin, I don't see why these things should matter. So, it feels like a natural voice that comes out to speak up."

Hamilton Would Love to See more Women in F1

Seven-time world champion Lewis Hamilton came to the defence of Sky Sports F1 commentator Naomi Schiff, who was bullied on Twitter about her credentials. Schiff, whose parents were Belgian and Rwandan, was a professional race car driver.

"She's been a great asset since joining & we should welcome more representative broadcasting with open arms," Hamilton tweeted. "Still have a long way to go to change these attitudes in sport."

The 37-year-old British superstar thanked a reporter for raising the topic in Thursday's press conference, saying "Naomi doesn't need me to speak for her. But I know what it's like to be on the receiving end of hate online, and there's just no place for it. And so I felt compelled to say something."

Hamilton said F1 has been a male-dominated sport for a "long, long time," and there is much more work to be done to improve representation and increase the opportunities for women in all levels with the sport. He said he's seen progress at Mercedes, but more so in marketing and human resources jobs.

"But in terms of engineers, we need to encourage more young women out there, young girls out there to get into STEM subjects, and creating the opportunity, that's part of my role in the background, working with Stefano (Domenicali, CEO of the Formula One Group) and the FIA to make sure they're making a more inclusive environment for everyone."

Hamilton said that just from the lack of diversity in Montreal this week, "when you're standing behind the camera or when you're walking down the paddock," it's clear how far the sport has to go.

"It's not shifted anywhere near as much as I would have hoped for," he said. "And having Naomi there, representation is so important, and I think she's done an amazing job. So I just tried to encourage her to continue to do what she's doing because she's stands for a lot." 

This report by The Canadian Press was first published June 17, 2022.

Lori Ewing, The Canadian Press

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