In a discussion surrounding former world champion Nelson Piquet's use of a racist slur against Lewis Hamilton, Sebastian Vettel claimed that as influential sportsmen that people from all around the world look up to, they must avoid such mistakes. As an example, he recollected the times when he looked up to seven-time world champion Michael Schumacher.
In the drivers' press conference ahead of the 2022 F1 British Grand Prix, Vettel revealed that as role models, it is up to them to set the correct examples. He said:
“I think we need to find a way to express our opinions and express what we feel is right and what I think is right, you know, in terms of behaviour and setting the right example, so that kids looking up to us think that this is cool, and they will, in a way, copy and try to be like us, I mean, that’s the way I looked at Michael [Schumacher] when I was young. He was the coolest guy there was and I loved him in many, many ways. I loved his driving, but if he said the car was doing this and that and if he said, I don’t know, wearing these boots or doing whatever, then you of course, you believe it, and you follow.”
While claiming that drivers must behave responsibly, Sebastian Vettel admitted that they too are prone to making mistakes "just like everyone else". The German said:
“So I think it’s about us, people that are in the public light, to tell the right stories, to carry that responsibility and have that respect. Now, of course, we are also people that do mistakes, just like everyone else of us. I mean, it depends on the crime, you know, I’m not the police. And I’m not going tell you what’s the… Give me the offence, and I’ll give you the penalty, sort of. But what needs to change is that these little things that some people look at and say, ‘Yeah, but it’s not that bad, he didn’t mean it that way or maybe it came out wrong’.”
Sebastian Vettel says F1 "has a responsibility" to take action against discrimination
Sebastian Vettel claimed that F1 must use its global platform to promote quality and talk about issues of discrimination.
Referring to F1's anti-racism campaign, We Race as One, he said:
“I think it is very important to talk about it and continue to talk about it because, as I said, it is not gone, and it won’t be gone overnight ‘that would be great’ but it is a bigger matter and F1 in that regard has a responsibility to carry and address these issues, which I think we’re trying to. We have the campaign We Race as One, which, you know, is very clear where we are going and where we want to go in the future.”
Another such incident that has recently occurred is Formula 2 driver Juri Vips' racist comments during a live stream that resulted in the suspension of his contract with Red Bull as a junior driver.