It is not everyday that the leading political discussion show in a country features a Formula 1 champion as a guest panelist.
On Thursday evening, Aston Martin racer Sebastian Vettel appeared on Question Time, a BBC political show broadcast since 1979, in which panelists (try to) answer questions posed by a studio audience comprising members of the public.
Vettel’s fellow panelists included the U.K.’s Attorney General Suella Braverman (also a Conservative Member of Parliament) and Labor MP Shabana Mahmood.
Vettel has previously expressed his environmental and societal concerns, largely within Formula 1 circles, most recently in Miami, where he wore a shirt highlighting the impact of rising sea levels in the flat coastal city. His appearance on Thursday allowed him to take his views to a different audience—and he was eloquent and insightful, despite explaining matters in his second (or maybe even third) language.
When asked by host Fiona Bruce whether participating in Formula 1 makes him a hypocrite on such issues, which prompted a couple of laughs from the audience, he said “It does, it does, and you’re right when you laugh—there’s questions I ask myself every day, and I’m not a saint.”
“There’s certain things in my control and certain things (that) are not. It is my passion to drive the car and I love it. When I get out of it, I am thinking ‘well is this something we should do’, travel the world, wasting resources.
“On the other hand we are entertaining people, and during COVID we were one of the first sports to restart. There’s things I do because I can do them better. Do I need to take the plane every time? No, not when I can take the car.”
Vettel regularly emphasized his belief that countries need to shift away from a dependency on fossil fuels, citing the recent Russian invasion of Ukraine and that “action should have been taken long ago,” particularly in his native Germany, to reduce its reliance on Russia.
“In Britain, you have this gold mine you’re sitting on, which is wind, you can increase your energy supply with wind power, solar,” he said. “Austria has its Alps and water, they can pump it up and store it, take it back down.”
Vettel also boldly waded in to some leading issues quite specific to the United Kingdom, including Brexit and the spate of COVID-19 rule-breaking that went on within Downing Street during 2020 and 2021, dubbed Partygate. U.K. Prime Minister Boris Johnson was last month fined for breaking his own rules after attending a gathering in 2020, and several more incidents are still under investigation by the police.
And on the Partygate scandal, Vettel was significantly more rational than many politicians in the country.
“In the end, it is the Prime Minister who made the law and then breaks the law,” he said. “I am the father of three kids and if I try to explain to them something that is really important on how to behave and I do the exact opposite, what will they make of it? I am the least credible person in front of them then. We all do mistakes, we are all human, but there’s certain things that come with that office you can’t do.”