Di Grassi accuses Vettel of “greenwashing” after he criticises Formula E again

2022 Dutch Grand Prix

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Sebastian Vettel has been accused of “greenwashing” by Formula E driver Lucas di Grassi after the Aston Martin driver criticised the series in an interview.

While Vettel has often voiced his concerns over climate change he has long been sceptical of the all-electric racing series, saying ahead of its launch “I don’t like it at all” and “I think it’s not the future.”

Vettel, who will retire from Formula 1 at the end of the year, told German weekly newspaper Zeit this week why he is not interested in working with Formula E.

“I don’t want to be a mascot and I don’t want to put my face forward for something that doesn’t fully convince me,” he said.

“I don’t understand the meaning behind [Formula E]. The battery technology that is being developed has nothing to do with the technology that a normal car could use.

“It is not good for the environment if the batteries are charged not with renewable energy but with fossil fuels.”

Di Grassi, the 2016-17 Formula E champion and only driver to have contested all 100 of the series’ races, criticised Vettel in a series of social media posts.

“If Vettel don’t want to come to Formula E, it is his choice,” he said. “Although it is the second highest paid series single seater in the world, still far away from a top F1 salary.

“Now to say that the technology of the cars are less relevant to the future of automobiles, he either has no idea of what he is talking about or is trying to mislead the general public on purpose.”

Vettel has become increasingly outspoken on environmental matters in recent years. He has begun using a bicycle instead of a car to commute to races and organised post-race rubbish collections to clean up circuits.

“All that green stuff he has been doing lately – collecting trash, riding bicycles etc – is completely greenwashing, not what he truly believes,” continued Di Grassi, who raced a single season of F1 for Virgin in 2010. “So, [whether] he likes or not the series, he should be supportive of it. That’s all.”

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    Keith Collantine
    Lifelong motor sport fan Keith set up RaceFans in 2005 - when it was originally called F1 Fanatic. Having previously worked as a motoring...

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    32 comments on “Di Grassi accuses Vettel of “greenwashing” after he criticises Formula E again”

    1. How many times since Silverstone 2021 Vettel was seen picking up trash after race is finished?

    2. Leave our Seb alone!

    3. Not sure an open Bolsonaro supporter is what we need to advocate for the environment, but okay

    4. And Di Grassi knows what Vettel ‘truly believes’, how?

      Vettel is however wrong about the Formula E batteries, which the article might have wanted to point out: the series is well aware of this issue (chargin batteries with fossil fuels) and has gone to great lengths to emphasize how it charges its batteries emission free and/or fully renewable. This has been an ongoing development since the series started.

      1. Yeah if Vettel actually said that, then that’s really vile of him.

        1. I think rather than it being vile or anything like that @krommenaas it probably rather shows that Vettel hasn’t been following what FE does.

          They changed the power source for the battery recharging after the first season, didn’t they MichaelN?

    5. So, [whether] he likes or not the series, he should be supportive of it. That’s all

      With all the reservations I have on Vettel and the greeniacs in general but De Grassi is basically saying “I don’t care what you think about me but you should support me no matter what”. Fascism at its finest.

      1. Exactly as expected from a Bolsonaro supporter.

    6. Why is it “not what he truly believes?”

      That is completely unfounded.

    7. Well if everyone was greenwashing in the way Seb has been, the world would be a cleaner and healthier place. So greenwash away! I don’t know enough about Seb’s concerns about Formula E batteries but this sounds like a classic case of whataboutism from Di Grassi. Must have hit a nerve!

      1. F1 Driver: FE battery tech is not road relevant.

        Di Grassi: F1 drivers make more bucks than us!!1!


    8. Di Grassi takes any opportunity to bash F1 and those involved in it. I wouldn’t have given this the time of day to be honest…

    9. Could it be that Mr di Grassi is a bit bitter towards F1 and believes FE is the best thing ever also because the former did not want him? Hmm….

    10. For me the point is the exaggerated claims. It’s clear its almost impossible to understand how many emissions happen because of what we do, and even harder to list the potential pollution from a single event, but I really dislike the use of “carbon neutral” as a way to say someone has done everything they possibly can to minimize their impact on the environment, which is far from reality.

      ” ‘I’m expecting to have fun’ says Vettel, as he prepares for carbon neutral-fuelled Silverstone run in Mansell’s 1992 Williams ” says the headline of this article https://www.formula1.com/en/latest/article.im-expecting-to-have-fun-says-vettel-as-he-prepares-for-carbon-neutral.506aSfZUj632YOZTaiOpnv.html , note the use of carbon-neutral.

      But in the article, the link says “sustainable” fuels, read that text behind that link and we find “will achieve greenhouse gas emissions savings relative to fossil-derived petrol of at least 65%”. That is not carbon-neutral, its 35% emissions.

      In the end, the potential green effect of F1 cars is much more to advance technology that is relevant. The actual consumption of the cars is peanuts in a grand scheme.
      At a F1 weekend, we can guess the cars themselves consume a total of about 4,000kg of fuel.
      I expect the crowd alone consumes >100,000kg of fuel just to travel to the event (and that is assuming they are all local).
      Let’s add the 1000 members of the F1 team, FIA, journos etc travelling by plane to the fly away races by plane. That alone will be about 300,000kg of aviation fuel. We can probably add that again at least for the equipment that is transported.

      So overall the cars are certainly less than 1% of the fuel burned for an average F1 weekend, but I don’t see them pointing that out anywhere.

      1. So you are saying an F1 event costs 404,000kg of fuel? :)

        Actually, even that is fine. Even that is a drop in any bucket. F1 could burn x10 that number of fossil fuel, but then also demand the cars themselves use true carbon neutral energy (preferably fuel, in my opinion), and come out ahead on being a positive thing. Even better….target a year where the cars themselves, running them AND manufacturing them, is true carbon neutral. If they are still not EV, but reach that target, that is better for everyone.

        Mass kills. A collision with a Tesla Model S is a collision with a small school bus. Literally. Look up the masses. Which also means, in stop&go or city driving, a Model S has to be 100% energy efficient to compete with, say, a hydrogen or carbon capture fuel car at maybe 60%, based on vehicle weights. Freeway driving is less mass, more aero, so that comparison does favor the EV right now, for efficiency, but suck for range and refill times. And freeway driving eats up range much faster.

        1. IOW, I’d favor a Formula-Carbon-Neutral over Formula-E, any day.

          Same goes with stupid laws, like what they are doing in California to force battery EV by 2035 over any other carbon neutral strategy. The law should be written to promote research on all fronts, not just what favors a huge company(s) in the state (if Tesla leaves, SpaceX leaves too).

        2. A collision with a Tesla Model S is a collision with a small school bus.

          A model S weighs about 2 tonnes. This is not a huge amount more than a car of a similar class (e.g. Audi A6 is 1.6-2 tonnes), and less than many non-electric SUVs.

          Which also means, in stop&go or city driving, a Model S has to be 100% energy efficient to compete with, say, a hydrogen or carbon capture fuel car at maybe 60%, based on vehicle weights.

          Which would be fine if they could reach 60% efficient. They don’t. ICE cars are lucky to reach 30% in ideal conditions, and are far less in stop/go traffic. Hydrogen vehicles are much better, close to EVs, but production of hydrogen isn’t.

          Freeway driving is less mass, more aero, so that comparison does favor the EV right now, for efficiency, but suck for range and refill times.

          Actually, for efficiency, highway driving is the worst comparison for EVs. A good diesel or petrol can sit at an efficient point for a long time. That said, even then for efficiency the EV will win.

          Range is still a problem, but in the UK I’ve done trips of hundreds of miles without issue. Most guidance says you should stop every 2 hours, which would be 140 miles at 70mph. That will take less than half an hour to top up at a decent charger, during which you can be getting a coffee, using the facilities, relaxing…

        3. Adding all the transport to the event, yes.
          And what I complain about is expanding the fuel use of the car to insinuate that the whole of F1 is “carbon-neutral” – we are not going to solve anything by picking 1% of the problem, solving it and then saying we are done! I don’t claim my life is carbon neutral because I drive an electric car.

    11. For anyone who’s not familiar, Di Grassi is by far the most annoying person on Twitter by a mile, motorsports-related or not. Given it’s Twitter we’re talking about, that’s quite an achievement! Anyone who puts Mensa in their profile description says a lot about them.

      This is just more of his petulant bitter whining that hasn’t relented in nearly 10 years.

      1. Yeah. He’s a piece of work alright and guy who supports Brazilian Trump. A man famous for burning down the rainforest.

    12. In addition, producing Lithium for batteries wastes a lot of water that becomes unusable (because of contamination) almost forever. But who cares? As long as people believe everything they are told by greedy car manufacturers… it’s good to have electric cars.

      And how are we going to produce much more electricity for electric cars if not by burning fossil fuels? Don’t even start talking about “green” wind or solar energy — charging thousands of electric cars (besides households, factories, malls and plants) requires a stable and continuous energy source. Something that “green” energy plants will never provide. Atomic energy? That’s a way, but it’s also very dangerous when you live near a crazy country that makes bold statements about blowing up a station.

      To sum up, electric cars is the same dirty future as the usual cars. You want to “save the planet”? Buy a used car.

      1. Well said. And what of the child exploitation in the cobalt mines in DRC and the ripping into the landscape? All to allow Joe Public to think they’re saving the planet. Follow the money and you’ll see we’re having our plonkers pulled.

      2. charging thousands of electric cars… requires a stable and continuous energy source.

        Actually, charging vehicles for day-to-day use is one of the users which is most suitable to use a variable source. They can charge mostly when there is excess, and we’re moving towards them being able to supply energy back to the grid when needed.

    13. Both DiGrassi and Vettel make some good points – but at the same time, both of them are flat out wrong.
      In this particular case, Vettel comes out looking the more ignorant.

      Reminds me of a lot of the silliness here. All the arguments about which is better and why between electric and replacement liquid fuels.
      The answer, for anyone who doesn’t know, is that both should receive more development and rollout, because neither will serve everyone’s needs nor save the planet.

    14. Used car is #1 best recommendation at the moment.

      But again, some places, like California, fight that. People keep voting for stupid candidates and we get stupid laws. If your “computer” is faulty, on say a used Lexus 300RX, you will fail smog, because they no longer sample air from the exhaust. So to get your used car legal, you have to pay over $1000 to but a new part you don’t need otherwise, and re test.
      (Actual case…we then sold that car and bought a different used car)

      And then there is the catalytic converter theft issue here. Thieves literally break in to garages just to cut off catalytic converters.

      Having strict new car smog laws is fine. But once they are in the field, it is better to just trust that 99% of them will sustain good smog behavior for long enough, and drop the whole smog testing scam industry.

    15. I stand with Vettel.

    16. If the series is eletric but not environment friendly, what’s the point of it other than being an alternative to F1?

      He did not want to look like the company guy, but that’s exactly what he did. Di Grassi is such a tool.

      1. I suggest you don’t take Vettel’s word for this.
        Do your own research on Formula E’s fuel used for power generation and recharging…

        It’s a lot better than F1’s.

    17. As much as Di Grassi is bitter and coming across as annoying, you can’t dismiss the comments he makes out of hand just because you don’t like him.

      If you take the dictionary definition of greenwashing then it is not unreasonable to accuse Vettel of it. Organising a few litter picks and cycling to a circuit can’t be used as a defensive shield against his contribution to the wider carbon footprint of F1. I sincerely think Vettel does care about the environment but he can’t expect to get a free(r) pass just for cycling to a circuit.

      Having Vettel as a spokesman for environmental concerns is always going to be a problem. He has amassed life changing money from pursuing a career that will count as one of the most carbon intensive options going, jetting round the world in first class driving horrendously inefficient racing cars. Unless he commits to investing a considerable portion of his wealth (>$100m) to develop projects to protect against climate change he will always be dogged by accusations of hypocrisy. He can argue that’s not fair but that is just the way it is.

      Also this is a transition to electrification with incremental steps needed rather than a single step. If Vettel did actually say what is described above (the article is behind a paywall) saying that the power is not renewable then this is not helpful in my view. Any activity that drives development to cleaner transportation needs to be applauded even if it doesn’t represent the final required solution, therefore criticising FE for this reason alone is counterproductive.

    18. The fuel is almost the least important waste in auto manufacturing! At least 40,000 gallons of water is used to make the average car; more if it’s “waterborne” paint. Most of the water cannot be used for anything for another 1000 years. Stop making cars is the best solution. Learn from Cuba!

    19. Mr. Di Grassi would do better to keep his mouth shut.

    20. I’d have a modicum of interest for what Seb could say about driving with a blown diffuser. Afraid I have no time for anything else the guy might talk about.

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