Lewis Hamilton’s comments about climate change have led to a number of Formula 1 drivers rallying behind the suggestion that the sport can improve its environmental impact.
Following the Japanese Grand Prix, Hamilton posted a number of social media messages about the way global eating habits are impacting the climate, as well as an emotional admission that he felt like giving up on his attempts to influence change.
In Mexico the five-time world champion was asked repeatedly about the issue and said his comments had been triggered by a documentary, and while he concedes F1’s carbon footprint makes his position tricky, he feels it is important to use his reach to highlight issues.
“Lots of people have had opinions about how I utilize social media, but ultimately it’s my platform,” Hamilton said. “We all have a voice, everyone here and around the world. It’s how you choose and how you want to use it. It’s not the easiest, because yes, we are traveling around the world, we are racing Formula 1 cars. Our carbon footprint for sure is higher than the average homeowner who lives in the same city. But it doesn’t mean you should be afraid to speak out about things that can be for a positive change.
“I’m always looking at things and how I can improve the effect that I’m having on the world. It’s something that I guess over time I’ve become more and more aware of. It takes a while. It’s not a quick-fix thing; it takes time to understand the implications. I think it’s just about education, and I’m just trying to highlight areas. Whether people choose to look into those, that’s up to them, but I’d feel like I wasn’t doing anything positive if I didn’t mention it.”
When pushed on specific areas where he has made changes himself, Hamilton listed a number of ways he is trying to help the environment.
“In terms of the things that I’m doing in my life, I’m trying to make sure that I’m carbon neutral at the end of the year. I don’t allow anyone in my office but also within my household to buy any plastics. I sold my plane over a year ago. I fly a lot less now. Obviously I’ve changed my diet, which is quite a drastic difference. I have a new smart electric (car) at home.
“I’m constantly making changes. It’s not a quick fix. It’s not something you do over a short period of time. I work with the team who are also really pushing to be carbon neutral. I’m working with Mercedes on the future plan with them, for example. Car manufacturers have all leather interiors. There’s no reason why we cannot have [faux] leather for the suede, so I’m pushing to be a part of that change with Mercedes-Benz.
“Obviously I work with Tommy Hilfiger — nearly 70 percent of all the clothes that I’ve done are sustainable and either recycled fabrics or leather, [or] faux suede and the goal is to have that 100 percent, hopefully in the next year or two. That’s also encouraged Tommy Hilfiger, who work in quite a damaging business or industry, to also look into that and push that direction.
“I don’t know much more I can do at the moment. I still love racing and I want to continue with that. If you look at our sport, it’s shifted from… we use a third less fuel now, [but] there is more I think that Formula 1 can do, and I think they are putting plans together, but we have to push all the industries. You have to push Formula 1 to do more, and I think that they’re giving us a proposal later today of the plans that they have in place. And we’ll do whatever we can to support that.”
Sebastian Vettel supported Hamilton’s comments, saying the sport needs to do more given its global platform to try and be more environmentally-friendly.
“I think you would be ignorant if you wouldn’t look at it,” he said. “Obviously, as Lewis mentioned, it’s very difficult [for] us to get acceptance from outside, because we don’t have the smallest footprint because the races happen around the world. We do have to travel, so it’s part of our jobs.
“But in general, Formula 1 should do more. It’s a worldwide operating platform. We should send a much stronger message regarding this subject, and I think personally — this is free to everyone — but I think everybody can do something, contribute a little bit. And if the whole world would act like that, it would make a huge difference. I think it’s inevitable that change is coming, and hopefully sooner rather than later.”
Hamilton’s comments were being regularly put to drivers on Thursday in Mexico, with Kevin Magnussen admitting it is a delicate subject, but one that F1 should be prioritizing.
“It’s a f****** tough question!” Magnussen said. “I do actually have a feeling about it. The way I look at it is, I’m not an expert. I can read to a lot of things and listen to a lot of opinions of experts. Then I’ll have a feeling about which camp I’m in, and what I believe is true or not, but I can’t say I’m an expert. So I’m always cautious to say ‘I believe this’. But I think things make sense, and it’s pretty clear we have a climate issue. I am a believer of that, and I don’t know how you could not believe that.
“I can’t say I have (changed my lifestyle) as I’m a Formula 1 driver, and I fly around the world every week, so no. But I can say I’ve started to feel bad about it. I think it’s going to be interesting to see how Formula 1 reacts to that in the future. That should be one of the big topics.
“I don’t know what can be done, and I just hope Formula 1 will look at it and take some action in that direction and be a leader in that. It’s one of the leading sports in the world, and it should be leading the way.”
It’s the sport’s own impact that Kimi Raikkonen said makes it dangerous for drivers to preach to the public, given the carbon impact of moving the paddock around the world.
“Obviously I think it involves everybody who lives on this planet,” Raikkonen said. “In the end we all try to do what we can, but honestly we are probably not in the best place to start making big stories out of it, because in the end we’re burning fuel for what? To be first, second?
“For sure we try to do our part always, if and when it’s possible, but I think F1 is probably not in the strongest place to tell people that this is what we should do, because to really go that route… we should all stay home and forget the racing.”
Not everyone was supportive of Hamilton’s comments, however, with Max Verstappen saying he will not be following the 34-year-old’s lead.
“I like fuel. Can I say that?” Verstappen said. “I don’t like electric stuff. I mean, I like my electric moped at home, but not for an F1 car. The environment is very important, but F1 has been around for a long time and I don’t think we should overreact or be a drama queen about it. Just get on with it. If you don’t like it, don’t watch it.
“I watched his documentary about being plant-based. It’s actually quite interesting that a lot of athletes say they gain performance from it, but it’s different to Formula 1, where we are not limited in pace physically. Yeah you need to be strong and fit, but it’s not like cycling or running where it’s all you. I enjoy eating my burgers sometimes as well.
“I like real meat! Everybody for themselves, everyone can make their own decisions. But yeah, I’m not going to go vegan.”