“Yes I am a hypocrite” admits Vettel after politician’s broadside over oil sands helmet

2022 Canadian Grand Prix

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Sebastian Vettel responded to Canadian politician Sonya Savage’s description of him as a hypocrite by stating: “Yes, I am.”

The Aston Martin driver said he was disappointed the Alberta politician resorted to a personal attack in reaction to his environmental activism.

Vettel is wearing a special helmet design at this weekend’s Canadian Grand Prix highlighting the environmental impact of Canada’s oil sands mining. He was also pictured in a T-shirt of similar design earlier this week.

The Athabasca, Peace River and Cold Lake oil sands combined form the world’s third largest known deposit of crude oil. However, extracting oil from the heavy sands is three to five times more energy intensive than pumping it from wells and has devastating environmental effects.

The deforestation required to access the mining sites, and emission of run-off and oil-infused sand, has created what is called the world’s most environmentally-destructive oil mining operation.

Vettel called the operation, which has also waged a bitter fight with Canada’s marginalised indigenous peoples over a pipeline and ongoing environmental concerns, “criminal” during a Friday press conference at the Circuit Gilles Villeneuve.

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Alberta minister for energy, Sonya Savage, called Vettel a hypocrite for expressing his views, pointed out he drives in Formula 1 for a team sponsored by Saudi Aramco, which is reportedly the world’s largest polluter.

Feature: Vettel’s unexpected route from hybrid critic to low-tech eco activist
Vettel agreed with the description of his views as hypocritical. But he said such personal attacks risk missing the “bigger picture” of the climate crisis.

“I’m a little bit disappointed that politicians jump on a personal level because it’s not about me, it’s not at all about me, it’s about the bigger picture,” he said.

“Yes, I am a hypocrite doing what I do for a living or doing what I love. We all have different passions, this is the way I sort of paint my canvas.”

“There are solutions for the future to make it more sustainable and not rely on fossil fuels and the future, in that regard, looks exciting,” Vettel added. “I think it’s disappointing that we break it down to a personal level and miss to look at the bigger picture.

“What’s really important is the message that we need to make the switch and get out of fossil [fuels] and start to base our whole lifestyle on renewables. So I think that’s the bigger picture stuff that I’m trying to address.”

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Author information

Hazel Southwell
Hazel is a motorsport and automotive journalist with a particular interest in hybrid systems, electrification, batteries and new fuel technologies....
Will Wood
Will has been a RaceFans contributor since 2012 during which time he has covered F1 test sessions, launch events and interviewed drivers. He mainly...

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66 comments on ““Yes I am a hypocrite” admits Vettel after politician’s broadside over oil sands helmet”

  1. It is well enough to admit being a hypocrite and I deride comparative blame games considering the environment is absolute, but the bigger point is to start making the change at home, which implies F1 has to do a lot more to cut down on emissions in general and not hide under carbon neutrality.

    1. There is no reason at all why people can’t do what they love and reduce their environmental impact in other ways.
      Every little bit really does help.
      It’s the simplistic all or nothing approach that holds so many projects back.

    2. F1 doesn’t pollute the planet as much as, say, an average village in India or a small town somewhere in the American Midwest, or a small plastic bag factory somewhere in some country many people haven’t even heard of. Today it’s all about PR and “sending a message”, but what we need is a change on a big scale, not in a sport that involves 20 cars and relatively small logistics (compared to even the smallest industry in some small country). I don’t care about eco F1 at all to be honest, I think that even in some ” green” future we hope to achieve we can afford having motorsport (a la Nascar even, not FE).

      Reply moderated
      1. Coventry Climax
        19th June 2022, 13:50

        Back it up with figures, please, Dex.
        Although in an increasingly number of cases hard figures are done away with as ‘just an opinion’, I would still like to see such claims as you make, backed up by the figures.

        1. Just a very quick google search tells me, that in 2019 F1 had an estimated CO2 footprint of 256.551 tons (should be about 20% less this season). The average US citizen: 15.53 tons. That means, a town of 16.530 people produces the same amount of CO2 than F1.

          Obviously other factors need to be considered aswell, but it kind of puts it into perspective. Even if F1 would pollute the planet as much as lets say double or triple the amount of people, it is still so much smarter to reduce the impact the average human has on the planet. Last season’s Abu Dhabi race was watched by about 100 million people. If every one of these viewers just saves about 2kg of CO2 in a whole year (that’s like one supermarket trip done by bike instead of by car), this would already offset the entire CO2 impact F1 has.

          Reply moderated
          1. No offense, but your math is wrong. That same google search shows that F1 in 2019 produced 256,551 tonnes of CO2, not 256.551. You are off by a factor of a thousand.
            The average American emits 16 tonnes. F1 emits as much as a town of 16,000 people each year.

          2. Ben, your location in the world can also determine the symbols used for decimal places and number separation.

          3. I think it’s just a typo the dots should be commas

          4. I do realize that James, being from France where we use commas for decimals and living in Canada where we use dots.
            The fact of the matter remains that F1 emits 256 thousand tonnes of CO2 in a season where as the average American emits 16. Meaning F1 emits as much CO2 in a season than a town of 16 thousand Americans.

      2. I would argue Dax that that is more an assumption than reality. The F1 circus in my opinion (and thats all it is, an opinion) is definitely more polluting that a village in India, how many people in the village? Do they use 5 sets of tyres per weekend? And does that entire village freight their cars and equipment across the world several times, manufacture thousands of expensive and energy draining technological pieces throughout the year. Do those villages drink coffee from porcelain mugs or do they drink from throw away cups like the paddock seem to do in social media? Do hundreds of thousands of fans flock to said village 22 times a year and throw their waste. F1 is a horrible polluter tied up with greedy, corrupt, polluting people and companies (oil extracters, fertiliser companies, polluting cryptocurrency companies) I love f1 but its terrible for the planet

        1. In my opinion this is a wrong take (see my VERY basic calculations in the comment above). The impact F1 has on a global scale is so little in comparison to the viewership. Just one bike trip to the supermarket for each viewer of last season’s Abu Dhabi race offsets the entire annual CO2 footprint of F1. And just another opinion: An event with throwaway cups that get recycled/burned after is already A LOT better than an indian village throwing all of their thrash into the river/ocean.

          Reply moderated
      3. “small village in India” – sorry mate but you got your facts wrong. When it comes to pollution, India isn’t even in top 20 countries in per capita CO2 emission. Now when you take absolute CO2 release by India – then its 4th after China, USA and EU. But considering it has 17% of world population, currently in developing phase and that too within 50 years of demographic dividend phase – I would say India is as sustainable as any other country in Scandinavia. That too the carbon budget expenditure is as low as 5% – I don’t get what the world wants from us in terms of Environment- we are doing as much as no developed country has even initiated-forget about developing ones.

        Reply moderated
      4. Im pretty sure a couple of laps of a Grand Prix pollutes as much as an indian village

        Reply moderated
    3. I think what Vettel is trying to do is quite noble but as you say the message doesn’t quite hit home when right above the message is a huge logo of Aramco and Aston Martin on a F1 helmet. We all need to do our part but these people are paying his salary, so even though he has good interntions the message loses its clarity in the delivery. It is like telling people to stop smoking Marlboro cigarettes because it is bad for your health while selling Camel’s.

      If he wants to have a bigger impact – maybe he need to demand more from AMR and F1 to start being more active in environmentalism and lead by example while protesting others.

      Reply moderated
  2. playstation361
    19th June 2022, 9:43

    Well said Vettel.

  3. Electroball76
    19th June 2022, 10:43

    If everyone could admit to being biased, self-centred, reactionary, hypocrites. And learn to accept it. Learn from it. Build on it. Well then we might all get on just that little bit better. And, if only by a tiny amount, the world might be a better place.
    Peace!

  4. He is using his position to speak up and try to change things. I think it is actually more powerful seeing those company sponsors on his helmet design along with his message. I don’t see him or Lewis as hypocrites either, if the driver’s all said nothing or just left because of these issues then nothing would ever change.

    1. It is not clear to me how his message becomes more powerful through displaying his oil company sponsors. When someone is protesting one form of carbon activity, while promoting another, it most definitely loses credibility.

      Reply moderated
    2. Had everyone forgotten the Exxon oil spill or the BP oil disaster? Just to name 2.
      Those had nothing to do with the oil sands, and were far more devastating to the environment. Vettel also failed to mention the reclamation projects that are required after the oil had been extracted. Unlike Lithium mining, oil sands miners have to reclaim the land. I find it so disingenuous that these guys talk about climate problems while driving the most polluting cars out there. Or let’s talk about the celebrities flying in on there private planes for a photo op. Why don’t any of these ‘ climate activists’ visit a.. Reclaimed… Oil sands site? Because they’d have to admit they were wrong

      Reply moderated
  5. I find this a very difficult subject.
    Yes, Vettel is right for calling out these things.
    Yes, it’s also correct to call Vettel a hypocrite (although I would expect better from politicians)
    And it is easy to admit you are a hypocrite, but much more difficult to actually change your own lifestyle.
    Vertel could also have stopped reaching in F1 and go to FE ( many teams would welcome him) and take the pay cut. But then again FE also travels around the globe, so maybe he should confine himself to Germany or Europe and travel everywhere by electric car or bike. Then he would have a real impact. With his many travels around the globe, Vettel has already polluted more than I will do in my entire life!

    While I do like Vettel, and agree with his messages (not only climate, but also LGBTQ), his words on this matter are in fact meaningless.
    They are the same as Al Gore traveling around the world to promote his An Inconvenient Truth movie.
    Vettel doesn’t even have to do it for the money anymore, it is just for his own fun.
    Change starts with yourself.
    But if we really want to do something about climate change, we have to accept some things cannot be done anymore, like flying across the globe, at least until we find environmental friendly solutions. The only way to travel across the globe with a small impact is to take a sailing boat like Greta did.

    1. While I do like Vettel, and agree with his messages (not only climate, but also LGBTQ), his words on this matter are in fact meaningless.

      To be fair to Vettel, he did set up his own beehives and educated a Northamptonshire school on recycling and other green topics, so he is at least doing more than just speak.

    2. travel everywhere by electric car or bike.

      Dude literally does everything by bike when trackside. Travels to all European grand prix by train. And has been doing for years.

      He does a lot of change on a personal level. But yes, he still drives car in circles. But they do give him a platform which might result in someone else changing their ways. Something he can’t achieve when he does what you suggest he should do.

      Reply moderated
    3. We are all no Saints when it comes to our environmental impact. The Reflex of demanding someone who calls for change to be a Saint before he is allowed to speak out, only serves to protect our own guilty conscience.

      “They are the same as Al Gore traveling around the world to promote his An Inconvenient Truth movie.”
      This falls into the same category, but have you ever thought that maybe you need to invest into some ideas so that they grow and the impact can multiply. Its easy to offset the environmental impact of Al Gores flight if just a million people slightly change their environmental behaviour.
      Same here, if Vettel decides to leave F1 guess what: Someone else will replace him. So How much CO2 emissions has he saved by that move?

    4. Though I agree with the most of what you write one thing is clear. It doesn’t start with one self. Awareness and knowledge is much more important since so many still believe it to be a hoax or don’t care and will continue down the road they always travelled. Is Vettel a strong example, absolutely not, but at least he puts focus on the matter at hand, even also by calling himself a hypocrite. His reach from Formula 1 is much bigger than yours or mine and his words reach directly into a large group of people that aren’t listening, or more correctly put, wish to understand climate change because that would mean they had to change.

  6. I don’t think calling Vettel hypocritical is a personal attack. It’s not like it was said that he is stupid, or dumb, or attacking anything out of his control.

    The minister for energy is 100% correct in saying Vettel should be more concerned with his employer and sponsors’ activities rather than a third parties.

    Who you choose to partner with and what you support in life says a lot more about you than your lip service bs .

    1. Indeed. Vettel definitely has the choice who to partner with.

    2. The point Seb is trying to make is that the politician felt the need to deflect responsibility, rather than defending her position or admitting more needs to be done. Playing blame game does nothing. The ‘bigger picture’ is actually solving it.

      Reply moderated
    3. Here we are talking about climate change and being reminded that politicians would rather deflect than solve. I’d say what Vettel is doing is necessary. The nail that sticks up gets the hammer unfortunately.

      You could say the same about any issue. Why try to fix X when you do Y. Doesn’t change the fact that X needs to be addressed.

  7. One has to admit, there is something ironic about the protest helmet being adorned with an Aramco halo.

    But hypocrite or not, the pollution is real, the problem is there and by calling out people for whatever they are won’t change it.

  8. Holdingmybreathforgoodnews
    19th June 2022, 11:38

    Don’t go preaching ‘climate change’ all the while you’re in a sport with a humungous carbon footprint, it’s not just about the car you drive it’s about team travels, the heavy goods vehicles, flying, sailing…and the millions of fans travelling to/from races.
    I find all this disingenuous carbon ‘offsetting’ acutely patronising.

    Reply moderated
    1. The term ‘your carbon footprint’ was invented by BP. It’s sole purpose is to redirect blame as much as possible from a company to individuals.

  9. It takes a lot of courage to admit to his own
    hypocrisy. His ties to F1 and Aramco also make his statements surprising. How many people just keep quiet while money is flowing into their pockets? How many people are afraid to burn bridges, lose jobs or become political targets when speaking their mind on a subject? Vettel has shown no fear of any of that.
    As for what he should or shouldn’t do about his career, I don”t know, but he’s using the huge exposure he gets for being a multi-champion F1 driver. That’s something he’ll immediately lose migrating to FE, for example.
    Politicians do what they do best, which is take the issue on an angle that benefits them the most. Blaming the messenger to avoid the issue at hand is not unexpected and is just one of the many problems with politics around the world.

    Reply moderated
    1. Bruce Missen
      20th June 2022, 17:36

      Obviously Vettel keeps quiet when the money is flowing; otherwise he would be talking about Saudi Aramco and their impact on the world’s climate change.

      Reply moderated
    2. What really needs to be done is all of you take a good look at the actual oil sands area and see for yourself. I’ve been up there numerous times any land that has been cleared of oil has been restored to an even better and cleaner condition. The real inconvenient Truth is telling people what really is going on up there. Did Sierra club has decided with money it gets from opposing oil field and processing companies, to attack Canadian oil products. The Canadian oil sands are one of the only ones that clean up the environment when the work is done. Reforestation clean and restored ground. If you look at the world’s polluters the real challenges to get China to make changes. Canada’s overall carbon footprint is tiny compared to the rest of the world and it is the cleanest most responsible producer of oil and gas on the planet. Also let’s stop promoting lithium ion battery produced cars. They are devastating to the world’s water table. Research that fact if you have time.

      Reply moderated
  10. If Vettel really care about cleaner energy he will be louder in his own country. Rejecting nuclear power plant, making themselves reliant to fossil gas Russia, and later tried to fullfil energy demand using brown coal was not very green nor sane policy.

    1. Nuclear energy is the cleanest of all.

      Reply moderated
  11. What a fantastic response. Very mature and 100% correct. It seems any time a touchy subject is raised, the default rebuttal is whataboutisms and ad hominem attacks. Proof that celebrity activism matters is that I’m reading about a very important environmental issue which I didn’t know much about on a motorsport blog.

    1. Coventry Climax
      19th June 2022, 14:04

      No offense, but I do hope you also find more reliable resources to get your knowledge and insight from regarding this issue than just this site. And no, youtube and social media do NOT qualify as such. Reactions like those from Gmacz are beyond ridiculous.

    2. Nailed it.

      Unfortunately someone responded with “there’s better sources!” As if you live under a rock, only read Motorsport and otherwise would not be aware of environmental issues…

      I get what you are saying. People of course are aware of climate change but need to constantly be reminded of it’s effects to encourage change. Just because Vettel has a high carbon foot print does not make him wrong. In fact I think it gives him even more perspective than the average person.

      Reply moderated
  12. I mean, that’s what politicians do, always take it to a personal level so we shouldn’t be surprised.
    Either way, I think it back fired for them because now it’s got more attention than if they had left Vettel alone.

    And I admit I’m now curious on what Vettel’s message will be in each of the following rounds.

  13. Vettels not a hypocrite. Different professions have different carbon footprints. I wouldn’t call a pilot or an Uber driver a hypocrite if they talked about the environment.

    It’s not as if F1s carbon emissions will decrease if Vettel leaves, it probably will increase a little since Vettel cycles to tracks and cuts down as much as he can. When he’s not racing Vettels probably greener than all of us since he uses solar panels.

    1. Vettel is worse than an hypocrite. Vettel promotes proverty and low life expectancy, and that specially for most vulnerable.
      He already have millions so he have no risk of poverty. He has no risk of a medicine cost 10000 instead of 1000.

      1. Put the tinfoil back on before commenting.

        Reply moderated
  14. Except that each of relatively few F1 cars emit as much pollution as 55,000 passenger vehicles in 1 year, considerably more pollution than you would find in a small Indian village. Don’t get me wrong I’d hate to see the environmentalist extremists go after racers, but if Mr Vettel is as concerned about the environment as he appears, perhaps he would be more effective in promoting lower emission standards within his F1 organizations rather than targeting producers with world leading ESG practices( Canadian producers also pay a tax on their carbon emissions AND are world leaders in developing and implementing carbon sequestration technologies) while being sponsored by the world’s least ESG conscious and most polluting energy producer.

    Reply moderated
  15. Canada’s extraction process certainly doesn’t seem perfect but they do have to make most of their geography to remain self reliant. For all of the negative points Vettel brings up he ignores that Canada isn’t selling out to Russia like his homeland or to Saudia Arabia printed all over his race suit, car and helmet. He is much worse than just a hypocrite he seems to have some kind of hidden motive. I encourage Sebastian to retire at year’s end so that he can properly educate himself and focus on his new passions.

  16. Canada’s extraction process isn’t bad, it is extremely bad, but hey, at least it is cheaper than the alternative, and the politician gets the rewards, while the people that voted to be represented are screwed.
    Russian or Saudi oil might be politically dirty, at least its extraction is rather clean.
    I’m fairly sure Seb can’t change the world overnight, and Germany is well aware of the issues their policies have. Do you really believe you can’t criticize when you’re not perfect yourself? Well, let’s all sit in a circle and cry to the moon, maybe that’ll help.

    1. Jason Burton
      19th June 2022, 18:14

      If you think Saudi or Russian oil extraction is “clean” then you clearly have no understanding of ESG or what actually goes on here. You’d rather support autocratic dictators than democratic who support human right and environmental protrcti9n seems pretty laughable to me. Canada is world class when it comes to reducing emission intensities etc.

      Reply moderated
      1. Canadian here, and I am ashamed at how backwards our country is in terms of caring for our environment. Our mining operations are terrible, our energy production methods are terrible, and our transportation choices are terrible. As an example, I live in a province next to the highest tides in the world, and we still burn South American coal for electricity. Systemic corruption in Canada values profits more than the health of citizens. It’s a shame that the knee-jerk reaction of gas-guzzling conservatives is to shout about hypocrisy, as self-reflection would be a much more useful response.

        1. John Florian
          25th June 2022, 23:11

          Another Canadian here.
          Canada’s carbon footprint includes all our activities including:
          -smelting enough aluminum with hydroelectric power to meet the annual needs of 240 Million people
          (This power could instead go to carbon neutrality)
          -growing enough soybeans for all of India
          -growing enough wheat to feed 240 Million people.
          None of this is factored into the net Canadian carbon footprint.
          We are the 2nd largest country with less than 40 million people. The transport costs to serve the world are considerable but necessary.
          We start no wars. We protect the weak. For once we should have a balanced evaluation.

          Reply moderated
  17. It is not only Vettel that is an hypocrite and dishonest , many here are too reading several posts. All your conforts and life expectance and health would not be possible without oil and fossil fuels.
    You would be dead by famine by now.
    And it was certainly elucidative how media censored for most part what happened in Sri Lanka when the Governement forbid industrial fertilisers. How many deaths because of that already?

  18. Point being, the idea of infallible coherence is a fiction. No one, ever, anywhere is 100% aligned in words and actions. But the straw man tactic worked like a chram here, as it usually does. Because the conversation now is “This F1 driver is a hypocrite” rather than “Canada’s tar sands are a friggin toixic nightmare that has poisoned and displaced whole communities and screwed the environment for who knows how long”.

  19. This article also is spreading misinformation. Thr oil sands are NOT “3 to 5 times” more energy intensive than the global average. They are 30 to 40% more. Also this is heavy oil you’re talking about so comparing it to light oil is just incorrect. Also an overwhelming majority of Indigenous communities SUPPORT oil sands and pipelines in Canada. Get your facts straight.

    Reply moderated
    1. Indigenous communities support the kickbacks from the dirty industry, that much is true. That’s how political corruption works. The tar sands would only marginally make sense here if we refined the product in Canada for Canadian use instead of exporting it great distances to the profit of other economies. Even then, it would be better to leave it in the ground and exploit less filthy resources.

  20. When you call something a “crime,” which it is by definition NOT, you imply that those engaged in the activity are “criminals.” YOU are the one that made it personal. In addition you are using YOUR name to elevate a message. This is also personal and means that undermining your credibility or authority on the topic is not only fair game but the logical thing to do. You started a conversation with accusations and judgement – to expect that to result in a reasoned dialogue and an actual focus on the problem is immature at best.

    Reply moderated
    1. If you ever saw the devastation of the tar sands operation in real life, you would understand that your definition of crime is not large enough to encompass what has happened here. It is a crime against nature.

  21. Jason Johnson
    20th June 2022, 1:45

    Please his sponsor is the Saudi government they kill people from expression of thought this guy is a paid whore period, is anything he says important no.

    Reply moderated
  22. Did he put an anti aramco sticker on his helmet when he raced in Saudi?

    Reply moderated
  23. Tokara Good Smith
    20th June 2022, 3:46

    Canadian Oil sands cover an area of 142,000 sq. km but only 3% of that land
    will be mined. Activists tend to use the 142.000 number and run with it.
    The reality is the developed oil sands are 4,800 sq. km of disturbed land that will be
    reclaimed when the oil is depleted
    Perhaps Mr. Vettel was learning activist facts instead of true facts.

    Reply moderated
  24. Albertaproud
    20th June 2022, 15:00

    So I guess cleaning up an oil spill from Mother nature and reclaiming the land by planting 3 trees for every 1 that’s been removed, and turning it into a thriving ecosystem is a crime. 🤷🏻‍♂️

    Reply moderated
  25. In reality, no one here in Alberta has ever hear of this guy, and we certainly don’t watch this event. His story and his opinion don’t mean anything to us.

    Reply moderated
  26. I guess you don’t need to be smart to drive Formula One. Supporting Saudi and Russia but slamming Canada. Dare you to go to either of those and spout of your rhetoric Vettel.

    Reply moderated
    1. Vettel criticized Saudi and Russia too, but why let facts ruin a good rant? I guess you don’t need to be informed to follow Formula One either.

  27. He drives a vehicle that guzzles more gas per mile than almost any other vehicle in circles to literally end at the exact same place he started. He is also sponsored by an oil giant. Talk about resting on his laurels while criticizing others. Walk the walk. What an idiot.

    Reply moderated
  28. Elmore Pumares
    25th June 2022, 21:11

    I am sick and tired of all the misinformed virtue signaling in all sports… but especially F1. F1 is a motor sport. It involves burning petroleum in a highly advanced internal combustion engine… the technology of which has informed the engines we use every day. Oil has been part of human civilization since ancient times… flowing up to the surface from cracks and fissures in the earth’s mantle. Ancient Indians used to coat their canoes with it. I could go on… people like Vettel should stop blindly following dogma, perpetrated by questionable interests, and instead begin intelligently questioning these interests. Our biggest problem as a society is WASTE. It is a massive problem. We have become programmed to be disposable, all in the name of convenience and profit. THIS is the problem. Not oil. F1 is a noble sport.

    Reply moderated
  29. Pieter Immelman
    26th June 2022, 14:52

    What is meant by renewables? Everything that is produced is creating immissions. The materials used etc. also need to be considered. Electrical vehicles is polluting the environment just as much as ice vehicles. Cobalt and lithium mining is harsh on the environment. Fossil fuels and gas remains the best options. Rather focus on keeping forrests well, they mop up all the co2.

    Reply moderated

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