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Jonathan Noble

Vettel: F1 must not steer clear of less tolerant countries

The four-time world champion famously spoke out last year about Hungary enacting a law that prevented the depiction and teaching of homosexuality or transgender issues to under 18s, sparking widespread condemnation across Europe.

Having made a personal stand with the wearing of rainbow shoes over the Hungaroring weekend, Vettel believes that F1 would be making a mistake if it turned its back on places where rights are not as well recognised.

Speaking in an exclusive interview as the cover star of the July/August issue of Attitude magazine, Vettel said: "Formula 1 will race in 23 countries this year.

"As far as LGBTQ rights are concerned, there are some countries we visit that are tougher than others. We could refuse to race there – but what then? If we don't race we'd be powerless to make any difference at all.

"But by racing in those countries and politely, but firmly, standing up for what's important we can have a positive impact. Values and principles can't stop at borders."

Sebastian Vettel, Aston Martin, and Pierre Gasly, AlphaTauri AT02, on the grid (Photo by: Jerry Andre / Motorsport Images)

Reflecting on why he was so openly critical about Hungary's actions last year, he said: "I did it because I wanted to show that I didn't, and wouldn't, endorse the anti-LGBTQ legislation that had recently been enacted.

"I didn't do it to be popular, but if LGBTQ people who had been upset by the legislation were encouraged to see that I'd stood up against it, obviously that's pleasing to know. And perhaps more F1 fans have begun to think about diversity and inclusivity because of the actions of some of us – and, if they have, I'm pleased. I'm happy and honoured to be your straight ally!"

OPINION: Why Sebastian Vettel is the voice the world needs

Vettel believes that F1's own views have changed in recent years and that, where once a gay driver may have been afraid to come out, he thinks now it would be accepted.

"Perhaps it wouldn't have been the case in the past, but now I think a gay F1 driver would be welcomed – and rightly so," he said.

"I feel that a gay driver would help to speed up the elimination of prejudice and help push our sport in a better direction. So I think and hope our sport would be ready for one."

However, he reckons campaigns like F1's 'We Race as One' needs to be followed through with actions rather than just slogans and displays.

Speaking about attitudes he said: "It's getting better, you do now see a few engineers and mechanics who feel able to be more open. But there's still more we can do to improve diversity and inclusivity in motorsport, not only in terms of sexuality but also by supporting and encouraging women, people of colour, those with disabilities and so on.

"F1 has started a movement called 'We Race as One', which is good, but we all have to make a concerted effort to ensure that it actually achieves positive change; so we act on it rather than just talk about it."

The July/August issue of Attitude magazine is out now.

Sebastian Vettel. Aston Martin Racing, Attitude cover (Photo by: Attitude)
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