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Sebastian Vettel has consistently spoken out in support of the LGBTQ+ community, most recently saying during an interview with Attitude Magazine that Formula One would welcome an openly gay driver.
The sport’s championship began in 1950, and since 1976, only male drivers have started on the grid. But in recent years, there has been a hefty push for more diversity and inclusion in F1, and the four-time world champion has helped lead the conversation.
The Aston Martin driver sported rainbow-colored shirt at last year’s Hungarian Grand Prix that read “same love,” protesting anti-LGBTQ+ legislation.
“Perhaps it wouldn’t have been the case in the past, but now I think a gay Formula One driver would be welcomed, and rightly so,” Vettel said in the interview with the LGBTQ+ magazine Attitude, which featured him on its cover. “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.”
The drivers have long faced questions about racing in countries who have questionable human rights laws, including locations where LGBTQ+ rights are restricted or outlawed. But Vettel doesn’t feel that the sport should stop racing in those locations.
“Formula One will put on 22 races in 20 countries this year. No country is perfect. My own country, Germany, is imperfect. The country of the team I race for, the UK, is imperfect,” Vettel said. “As far as LGBTQ rights are concerned, there are some countries that we visit that are much tougher than others—obviously. We could refuse to race in those countries—but what then?
“If we were not to race there, we’d be powerless to make any positive difference at all. But by racing in those countries and politely, but firmly, standing up for the values and principles that are important to us, I think we can have a positive impact. Values and principles can’t stop at borders.”
Vettel compared the reasons why a gay athlete may not be open to what is happening in soccer and “the old image of a player or driver as a ‘hero’ who should match a certain set of criteria.” He continued, “But the judging criteria are often just wrong. Who wrote them in the first place? Who got to decide?
“For example, ‘men don’t cry’ or ‘don’t show weakness’—how are those stereotypes in any way related to our performance? Why does our society still shame someone who admits weakness or acknowledges failure? To me, it should be the opposite. It takes enormous courage to show your real self rather than hiding behind a façade based on what people expect. We should start seeing and understanding that it’s the diversity in people that made us evolve and pushed us to new heights.”
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