Vettel aims for positive change by hosting karting event for Saudi women

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Vettel aims for positive change by hosting karting event for Saudi women

Formula 1

Vettel aims for positive change by hosting karting event for Saudi women


Sebastian Vettel ran a karting event for Saudi women on Thursday in Jeddah in an attempt to bring positive change ahead of the inaugural Saudi Arabian Grand Prix.

Women have only been allowed to drive in the kingdom for the past three years following a changing of the law, and the rights afforded to women is one of a number of topics that has been highlighted by Formula 1’s decision to race in Saudi Arabia. Following Lewis Hamilton’s comments that the sport needs to do more to improve human rights issues in countries it visits, Vettel explained a special event he put on to try and further development for female drivers.

“It was really exciting,” Vettel said. “Obviously there’s been a lot of talk and thought heading into the race here, the first time we race in Saudi Arabia. A lot of questions have been asked and I’ve asked myself, so was thinking, ‘What I can do?’

“I think in general we have so much attention or focus on negative examples when it comes to shortcomings of certain countries in regard to human rights and other things. I really try and think of the positives, so I set out my own karting event today under the hashtag ‘Race For Women.’ We had a group of seven or eight girls and women on the track, and set up a nice event only for them — I was trying to pass on some of my experiences in life and on track to do something together to grow their confidence.

“Obviously in Saudi Arabia women have only been allowed since 2018 to drive a car, so some of them had a license, others did not. Some of them were huge F1 enthusiasts, others had nothing to do with F1 or racing before today. So it was a good mix of women from different backgrounds and a great event — everyone was extremely happy and I was extremely inspired by their story and background, their positivity about the change in the country.

“It’s true if we look from a Western or European lens, there’s still lots of things that should be improved and have to be addressed but it’s also true that some things are changing and for those people they make a huge difference.

“In the end it’s very difficult for us, coming to a country where we spend maybe only a couple of days and trying to be a perfect judge by not knowing the background exactly and the people inside out; but this way, for me it was important to get to know some of these women. It was a very inspiring day and a great way to kick off the weekend, and that’s the main thing — focusing on the positive.”

Vettel says different countries have similar issues to varying degrees and need to try and find more productive ways of influencing change rather than just criticizing and demanding instant reactions.

“I think it’s clear that some things aren’t going the way they should but that’s our point of view. It’s also probably true that things take time and it’s a process. I would love to change the world in some things overnight but who I am to judge about right and wrong? I think that’s a slippery slope.

“It’s true that in some countries, some shortcomings are bigger than in others. I think there’s trouble in Germany, there’s trouble in the UK, when it comes to individual freedom — probably to a different scale and level but as I said, I feel that we don’t really get anywhere by just highlighting the negatives and being so negative because in the end, it makes you sad.

“Much more inspiring, I find, is to highlight the positives and listen to those who have been touched and whose life has been improved. To see today these women, the confidence they had and maybe in the area that is male-dominated when it comes to driving and racing, to give them the chance and the focus, it’s been great and it’s given me a lot of pleasure as well.

“It wasn’t a race or something that maybe people imagined but just the fact that I am spending time and giving something back. For sure there are shortcomings and they have to be addressed but I still feel the more powerful tool is the positive weapon than a negative one.”