Sebastian Vettel believes Formula One should join other sports in asking whether the pursuit of more income should take precedence above worries about its moral compass.
The addition of races in Saudi Arabia and Qatar to Formula One has reignited concerns about regimes with terrible human rights records exploiting the sport as a means of sportswashing.
F1 executives and the FIA, on the other hand, have long believed that sports should stay neutral, and that racing in places like that may be beneficial by drawing attention to potential issues.
But, according to Vettel, there comes a time when the sport must make a moral decision, not only to increase profits.
In a large interview with selected media, including Motorsport.com, on human rights, sustainability, and tolerance, Vettel said that revenues should not be the only factor when deciding where sports events are held.
“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.”
This year, Vettel has been a strong proponent for a variety of causes, including the environment and LGBT rights.
While F1 has made a big deal out of its #weraceasone campaign, Vettel believes the sport needs to do more than just hold a ceremony before each 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.”
“I don’t know what exactly is the best way to not only communicate on a flag that lies on the circuit for a couple of minutes,” Vettel remarked when asked if F1 could be more militant.
“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.
“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.”
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