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Vettel using 'powerful weapon' to challenge Saudi human rights issues

Vettel using 'powerful weapon' to challenge Saudi human rights issues

F1 News

Vettel using 'powerful weapon' to challenge Saudi human rights issues

Vettel using 'powerful weapon' to challenge Saudi human rights issues

Sebastian Vettel has taken it upon himself to challenge perceptions in Saudi Arabia by holding his first #raceforwomen event.

Concerns have been raised over F1's inaugural visit to the Jeddah Corniche Circuit given human rights failures in the Kingdom, with Aston Martin driver Vettel one of the loudest critics ahead of the event.

Ahead of the weekend, Vettel held a karting event exclusively for women - a demographic that has long been persecuted in Saudi Arabia.

"Obviously, there has been a lot of talk and thought heading into the race here, the first time we race in Saudi Arabia and a lot of questions that have been asked and I have asked myself," explained Vettel.

"I was thinking of what I can do and in general, we have so much attention and focus on negative examples when it comes to shortcomings of certain countries in regards to maybe human rights and other things but I really try to think of the positives.

"I set out my own karting event, under the hashtag raceforwomen. 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. In Saudi Arabia, women have only been allowed since 2017 to drive a car.

"Some of them had a license, some of them did not, some of them were huge F1 enthusiasts, others had had nothing to do with racing before today so it was a good mix of women from different backgrounds and a great event.

"Everyone was very happy and I have to say I was very inspired by their stories and their background, their positivity and the change in the country."

Saudi shortcomings must be addressed - Vettel

Vettel was highly critical of the Hungarian government's attitude towards the LGBTQ+ community when F1 arrived in Budapest ahead of the summer break, protesting against the country's laws during the moment of reflection ahead of the grand prix.

With the LGBTQ+ community experiencing a weaker presence in Saudi Arabia, Vettel was asked if he felt comfortable attending the race this weekend.

"It is clear some things aren't going the way they should but that is our point of view," the four-time champion replied.

"It is also probably true that things are taking time and it is a progress. I would love to change the world in some things overnight, but who am I to judge right and wrong? I think that is a slippery slope.

"It is true that in some countries, some shortcomings are bigger than in others. There is trouble in Germany and trouble in the UK when it comes to individual freedom - probably to a different scale and level.

"As I said, I feel we don't really get anywhere by 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, listen to those whose lives have been touched and improved and to see today, these women and the confidence they had in an area which is male-dominated when it comes to driving and racing, to give them the chance and the focus has been great.

"It has given me a lot of pleasure as well. Just the fact I am spending time and giving something back and some of my experience, they really enjoyed that. I think for me, that is the happier way to look at things.

"For sure, there are shortcomings and they have to be addressed but I still feel the most powerful tool is the positive weapon and not the negative one."

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