Sebastian Vettel says the global climate crisis has made him question whether racing in Formula 1 is the right thing to do.
The four-time world champion, speaking on BBC Question Time, has become a campaigner on environmental issues in recent times.
He wore a T-shirt in Miami last weekend to highlight the threat of rising sea levels around the Florida city.
Vettel has also spoken out passionately on human rights and LGBTQ+ issues.
He said: “It’s my passion to drive a car. Every time I step in the car, I love it.
“When I get out of the car, of course I’m thinking as well: ‘Is this something we should do, travel the world, wasting resources?'”
The 34-year-old, who races for Aston Martin, answered in the affirmative when he was asked by host Fiona Bruce whether his position on the environment made him a hypocrite, but said he asked himself questions about protecting the planet “every day”.
“We need to stop being dependent [on fossil fuels], and we can, because there are solutions in place,” Vettel said.
“You know, in Britain, you have this sort of goldmine you’re sitting on, which is wind, and you have the ability to increase your energy supply with wind power, solar.
“Every country has its strengths and weaknesses.
“If you go to Austria, they have the Alps and they have water, they can pump it up, store it, take it back down.
“It’s something that I’m asking myself. There’s certain things that are in my control, and certain things are not.
“There’s things that I do because I feel I can do them better. Do I take the plane every time? No, not when I can take the car. But there’s certain things in my control, and certain things outside.”
Vettel said that it was important for countries to shift away from relying on fossil fuels for their energy needs and towards renewables.
“Action should have been taken a long time ago,” he said. “We shouldn’t depend on prices we don’t dictate.
“How do we source our energy? In the UK, you have a mixture of gas, coal and oil; Germany is very dependent on Russia and potentially in trouble. What do we do if Russia turns the tap off? We shouldn’t be as dependent.
“We have to shift into the next gear, not just for the reason of becoming independent but also to look after the bigger picture – that we live on a planet that’s as enjoyable as it is today.
“We should think of ‘peace energy’ or ‘freedom energy’, which is renewable energy. That is the future, not just as a way of protecting people who can’t afford bills but also to protect against the future.”
And he defended F1 by saying that it also played a positive role in society.
“On the other hand, you know, we were entertaining people during Covid,” he said.
“We were one of the first ones to start again, when everybody’s heads were about to explode.
“I’m not saying Formula 1 has this huge position in the world to deliver entertainment. There’s plenty of people – if you talk about entertainment, sports, culture, comedy – a lot of people who couldn’t perform, and a lot of people missed that. And I think if we didn’t have that, in general, we’d probably go mad.”
F1 has put sustainability at the heart of its plans for the future.
The hybrid engines the cars use are already the most efficient in the world. They have made a revolutionary step forward in thermal efficiency – the measure of converting fuel energy to power – by increasing it to more than 50% from the 30% or so of a standard road-going petrol engine.
The sport has plans to go net-zero carbon by 2030, part of which is a further step in the efficiency of engines, which will increase the proportion of total power provided by the hybrid part of the power-unit to 50%.
In addition, it is to introduce at the same time as the new engines in 2026 fully sustainable, carbon-neutral fuels.
It is hoped by doing so it can champion the use of these fuels in the remaining internal combustion-engined road cars.
The sport’s bosses argue that there will still be millions of petrol- and diesel-engined cars on the roads after 2030, when the UK, for example, has pledged to ban the sale of any car that is not powered by electricity, and that using sustainable fuels would have a dramatic effect on reducing global carbon emissions.