F1’s recent addition of races in Saudi Arabia and Qatar has prompted renewed concerns about regimes with poor human rights records using grand prix racing as a sportswashing exercise.
However, F1 chiefs and the FIA have long argued that sports should remain neutral, and that racing in such places can have a positive effect by highlighting potential issues.
However, Aston Martin driver Vettel thinks there comes a point where F1 has to make a decision on morality grounds, and not just because it wants to try to increase profits.
Speaking to selected media including Autosport in a wide-racing interview on human rights, sustainability and tolerance, the German said that profits should not be the sole factor in deciding where events are hosted.
“I think the trouble is that ultimately a sport, and it’s the same as a country, is governed by individual people,” he said.
“Individual people have individual opinions, and backgrounds, whatever, so it is of course difficult. But we have to find the perfect people to sort of govern our sport, and then apply the right path going forward.
“There’s more than just that interest, there’s obviously huge financial interest, in going forward. But I think at some point you need to ask your question, and people in charge need to ask themselves the question: do you have a moral?
“Do you therefore say no to certain things? Or do you just say ‘yes’ to any big deal that’s around the corner, but for the wrong reasons?
“I think that’s the bigger picture stuff that people in charge ultimately need to ask themselves.”
Sebastian Vettel, Aston Martin, and Pierre Gasly, AlphaTauri AT02, on the grid
Photo by: Jerry Andre / Motorsport Images
Vettel has been a strong campaigner this year on a number of issues, including the environment and highlighting LGBT rights.
And while F1 has made a lot of its We Race As One campaign, Vettel believes that it needs to put actions behind its words, and do more than a simple ceremony before every race.
“I think there are certain topics that are too big to neglect,” he said. “I think we all agree that – and this doesn’t matter where you come from – it’s only fair to treat people equally.
“I think there are obviously countries that have different rules in place, different governments, different backgrounds.
“Now, I can’t speak for all the countries and be an expert, because I don’t know. But obviously there’s certain aspects in certain countries that I think I know about.
“We go to some of those places, and we roll out a huge carpet with nice messages on it. But I think it takes more than just words, I think it takes actions.”
Asked if F1 should be more militant, Vettel said: “I don’t know what exactly is the best way to not just communicate on a flag that lies on the track for a couple of minutes.
“But certainly I feel that our sport could apply a lot of pressure and could be of immense help to spread that fairness around the globe even more.
The drivers stand in support of the End Racism campaign prior to the start
Photo by: Charles Coates / Motorsport Images
“Because in the end, I think it’s not right to judge people or to apply certain laws and to differentiate people just because they happen to love a man instead of a woman or a woman instead of a man.
“I think any form of separation is wrong. Imagine we would all be the same, I think we wouldn’t progress.
“I mean, imagine all the cars would look the same in Formula 1. It would be boring: not just the same colour, but also the same aero bits. Now going more into our language, it would be absolutely boring, we would never make progress.
“And the same goes for us. I think we have evolved so much as human species, because we are all different in a way, and I think we should celebrate the difference, rather than be afraid of it.”