F1 driver Sebastian Vettel calls Alberta oilsands 'a crime'

Formula 1 race car driver Sebastian Vettel arrived at practice in Montreal wearing a T-shirt saying 'Stop mining tar sands Canada’s climate crime.' Sarah Reid reports.

Formula 1 driver Sebastian Vettel made more than a fashion statement arriving at the Canadian GP course on Friday, in a T-shirt that said, “Stop mining tar sands Canada’s climate crime.”

And the driver known to be outspoken about climate change didn’t back down when asked about it at a news conference later that day.

“What happens in Alberta is a crime, because you chop down a lot of trees and you basically destroy the place just to extract oil and the manner of doing it with the tarsands mining, oilsands mining, is horrible for nature,” the 34-year-old father of three said.

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And the Aston Martin team driver said he plans to wear a helmet when racing in Montreal with a similar message.

Vettel, whose car counts Saudi Aramco as a sponsor, wore a similar T-shirt in Miami last month that said “Miami 2060 — first grand prix underwater — Act Now or Swim Later,” highlighting climate change effects in low-lying areas.

Alberta Energy Minister Sonya Savage took to Twitter in response, saying the apparent hypocrisy “takes the cake.”

“Saudi Aramco has the largest daily oil production of all companies in the world. It is reputed to be the single largest contributor to global carbon emissions, of any company, since 1965,” Savage wrote.

“Rather than demonizing the oilsands, which is on a path to net-zero, people could look to lowering their own personal carbon footprint.”

While on a British television panel show, Vettel was asked whether his position on the environment made him a hypocrite given his participation in a “gas-guzzling” sport.

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“It does, it does, and you’re right when you laugh,” he replied. “There’s questions I ask myself every day and I’m not a saint.

“Certain things are in my control and certain things are not. It’s my passion to drive a car, I love it and 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 that we should do — travel the world, wasting resources?’”

At the same news conference on Friday, Vettel stressed the need to take care of the Earth for future generations.

“I think it’s only fair to look after it and not destroy it.”

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Jason Kenney echoed Savage’s response to Vettel’s stance Saturday on CHED with Your Province Your Premier.

“The criticism of the Canadian oilsands has always been filled with a high level of hypocrisy but this takes the cake.

“This guy has a carbon footprint the size of some third world countries. For a living, all he does is burn carbon for no useful purpose, but just for kicks.

“Apparently, he’s saying that he’d prefer that his F1 car be fuelled with OPEC dictator fuel, by Russian dictator energy that’s fuelling the Putin war machine, as opposed to coming from transparently operated, publicly-traded companies in a liberal democracy with the highest human rights, labour and environmental standards on Earth.”

Vettel is the latest in a string of celebrities and public figures to speak out about the oilsands.

In 2008, Actress Neve Campbell toured the oilsands, becoming one of the first celebrities to speak out against the industry.

Since then, a number of high-profile figures including director James Cameron, anti-apartheid leader Desmond Tutu, singer Neil Young, actress Jane Fonda and actor Leonardo DiCaprio have made similar trips to draw attention to environmental concerns.

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— with files from The Canadian Press and Reuters

© 2022 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.

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