MONTREAL (Reuters) – Formula One activist Sebastian Vettel has used his platform to put the spotlight on many issues from LGBTQ rights to climate change but this week the German came to the Canadian Grand Prix targeting Alberta’s tar sands.
A four-time world champion, Vettel arrived at Circuit Gilles Villeneuve riding a bicycle wearing a white T-shirt sporting a picture of a pipeline with “Stop Mining Tar Sands” at the top and “Canada’s Climate Crime” stencilled along the bottom.
The Aston Martin driver said he will also wear a special helmet for Sunday’s race highlighting the issue.
“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 tar sands, mining oil sands, is horrible for nature,” Vettel told reporters during his pre-race news conference on 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.
“So it is just in principal to raise awareness.”
Vettel’s protest caught the attention of Alberta politicians who quickly took to social media labelling the German, whose team is sponsored by Saudi Arabia state-owned oil giant Aramco, a hypocrite.
“I have seen a lot of hypocrisy over the years, but this one takes the cake,” tweeted Alberta’s Energy Minister Sonya Savage. “A race car driver sponsored by Aston Martin, with financing from Saudi Aramco, complaining about the oil sands.
“Saudi Aramco has the largest daily oil production of all companies in the world. It is reputed to be the single largest contributor to global carbon emissions, of any company, since 1965,” added Savage.
Vettel has linked his name to many causes.
Last year he wore a rainbow-coloured T-shirt in Hungary with the message ‘same love’ to protest anti-LGBTQ+ legislation and earlier this month said Formula One was now ready to welcome it’s first openly gay driver.
But for the father of three, environmental issues are of particular concern, saying he does not want to leave the next generation a destroyed planet.
At the Miami Grand Prix in May he wore another T-shirt that warned, “Miami 2060 – 1st Grand Prix Underwater – Act Now or Swim Later.”
“It is just to think about future generations and the world we will leave in their hands once they are old enough to carry on to take care of it,” said Vettel, who is often spotted at tracks helping clean up rubbish after a race. “I think it is only fair to look after it and not destroy it.”
(Reporting by Steve Keating; Editing by Ken Ferris)