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Sebastian Vettel on the Future of Formula 1 in the Face of Climate Change

Sebastian Vettel warns if sustainability measures haven't been implemented, Formula 1 may not have a future. ...

Four-time Formula 1 world champion, Sebastian Vettel, believes that the future of Formula 1 is in jeopardy if it doesn’t adapt and implement key sustainability improvements. 

While at the Goodwood Festival of Speed, Vettel was testing out his Williams FW14B and McLaren MP4/8 using sustainable fuels to promote his “Race Without a Trace” cause. 

His point was to demonstrate that “you can have fun but maybe in a more responsible way. It’s something maybe not everyone has understood yet to a full degree.” 

It was during Goodwood that Vettel expressed his concerns for Formula 1 in the face of climate change, despite their switch to 100% sustainable fuels in 2026. 

The German was quite clear that he wasn’t focused on the threat of protests like those at the British Grand Prix, but the weather’s impact on the sport. 

He pointed to the recent cancellation of the Emilia Romagna Grand Prix this year due to flooding and Goodwood cancelling its third day due to intense rain and high winds as evidence of climate change’s impact on motorsport. 

“Imola got cancelled,” Vettel said. “Yesterday the event [at Goodwood] got cancelled. There is a direct relation between extreme weather and the changing world, the warming world.” 

He pointed out that Imola “had a massive drought then all of a sudden, seemingly never-ending rain and the rain couldn’t get into the ground, pushed to the next place and obviously collected in a place like Imola and caused massive floods.”

The Miami Grand Prix was also at risk of cancellation “because two or three weeks prior, again it was flooded and the actual track was underwater so the race could have been cancelled if it happened three weeks later.”

A similar cancellation could have occurred in Montreal thanks to “the forest fires in Canada.”

Vettel is urging people to think in the long-term as “it might be next year that no races are under threat but that’s not how it works.” Rather, Vettel says that “it’s more the threat that at some points governments will be looking at things they can cut and ban and maybe motorsport is at threat and might be one of them.”

He wants it to be clear that he doesn’t want that to happen, it’s just “how far [forward] [he’s] thinking.” 

Why would a government ban motorsport? Vettel argues that, “It would be a shame if we lose that because we simply can’t afford it anymore when you [someone in government] looks at something as boring as a carbon budget, and you just say ‘OK these sorts of events fall of first.’”

Are There Already Racing Bans in Some Countries?

As it stands, the only country that has any sort of ban on Motorsport is Switzerland, though this ban was not imposed for environmental reasons. Instead, the public circuit racing ban was implemented in 1958 as a reaction to the 1955 24 Hours of Le Mans crash involving Pierre Levagh that killed 83 people and injured 180. 

What’s interesting about the Swiss ban is that it began as a ban in regard to public safety, but has since morphed into something else. For example, when an initiative removing the ban was proposed in 2011, it was rejected by the Swiss upper house because senators felt that allowing races would not send a good signal in terms of climate polity and road security.

When the Swiss government did finally relax the law, they only permitted head-to-head racing for electric vehicles. In 2018, Switzerland hosted its first motor race in 63 years when Formula E came to visit for the Zurich ePrix. The reason given was that “the organisation of events of this type benefits the economy and research in Switzerland.” 

It’s difficult to make assumptions about potential motorsport bans when the only country that has implemented them did so out of concerns for public safety. However, it could be argued that measures taken against climate change are in the interest of public safety. 

In the face of climate disaster, if more countries take on this mindset and implement drastic measures to curtail emissions, Vettel may be correct in his assumptions about the future of Formula 1, though as Lewis Hamilton reminded us all in 2020, “Cash is king.” 

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