Vettel: Silence was no option amid shock of Russia’s Ukraine invasion

Sebastian Vettel has said staying silent over Russia’s invasion of Ukraine was no option for him – which is why he had no qualms in being the first driver to speak out.

Sebastian Vettel, Aston Martin, in the Press Conference

The German made it clear last week, just hours after Russia declared war on Ukraine, that he would boycott the Formula 1 race in Sochi this year even if it went ahead.

Vettel’s strong stance earned him high praise, and comes off the back of a year where he has been applauded for his push on environmental and social matters.

While other drivers were not as vocal in their stance about the Ukraine situation, Vettel said it did not matter that not all his rivals were willing to be so strong in their views.

Instead, he said the only thing that had any importance was in hoping matters in Ukraine can be de-escalated quickly to stop the suffering.

“I think everyone has an attitude,” said the Aston Martin driver. “The question is whether everyone always dares to share the attitude.

“I'm not shy about that, quite the opposite. I think there are certain topics where you can't remain silent.

“It's a strange feeling to even get out of bed when you start the day with the news, to motivate yourself when you know exactly that there are things that are much more important. Innocent people are already having to die. You can't imagine the situation.

“I don't think there's a winning side to this kind of thing. [It is an] absolute shock, and I think the consequence is very clear.”

Sebastian Vettel, Aston Martin AMR22, in the cockpit

Sebastian Vettel, Aston Martin AMR22, in the cockpit

Photo by: Zak Mauger / Motorsport Images

While not all drivers have expressed their feelings in public as much as Vettel, the four-time world champion thinks that they all share the same views.

“Right now everyone is busy with themselves, but of course this is an issue that is bigger than anything else. I'm sure all the other drivers share the opinion. Anything else would surprise me,” Vettel said.

“But it's not important at first whether we speak out or not. The important thing is that maybe the situation will relax, that it will come to an end. I don't think anyone wants it to escalate further and get further out of control, but that seems very difficult at the moment.”

F1 did not hesitate to respond to the outbreak of war by calling off this year’s Russian Grand Prix, while Russian drivers will only be allowed to continue to compete in FIA sanctioned events under a neutral capacity and under the FIA flag.

And while F1 is not immune to financial pressures, Vettel said some topics have to go far beyond pure business.

“Values and morals should come before everything else,” he said. “Business is not important at all in that respect.

“If people go to war and die, I can't imagine that at all. I, like everyone else, sat there and learned a lot in history class and listened a lot. I found it all very interesting, what happened.

“I still think it's extremely important to continue to have these things in your conscience and to continue to be made aware of them. You can't forget things like that. And you become all the more aware of such things now. As I said, there was hope that things would settle down. It's terrible that it's now getting out of control.”

Sebastian Vettel, Aston Martin

Sebastian Vettel, Aston Martin

Photo by: Zak Mauger / Motorsport Images

Vettel said the Ukraine situation had put in to context what F1 ultimately means.

“Whether someone drives fast or slow, whether the car is good or not, it's all secondary,” he said. “We all had a life growing up without confrontations, without wars. There was a phase at the end of the 1990s, but to be honest I was still a small child then and didn't notice or understand much.

“Now to witness and hear that people are being sent to the front and are putting their lives in danger, and some have already died, that is terrible.

“As a human being, you can only see it that way. I wouldn't understand if you couldn't share that in that sense. Even if, as an athlete, you are always told not to get involved, but to stay out of it. In that respect, there are simply weightier issues. And I have no problem sharing my position on them.”

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Asked if he had a message for Europe, he said: “I can't speak for Europe. But I think I'm as European as many others. In that respect [I am] very, very shocked.

“I wish it would settle down after all, but some people seem to be possessed by madness. They have, I think, their own truth and their own reality. That then others have to suffer for it and be punished with their lives, that doesn't make sense.”

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