Lewis Hamilton has defended his interest in raising awareness about environmental issues, insisting his Mercedes team is working to become “carbon neutral.”
“It’s not the easiest because yes, we are traveling around the world,” Hamilton, who is a vegan, told reporters ahead of the Mexican Grand Prix.
“We are racing Formula One cars. Our carbon footprint, for sure, is higher than the average home owner who lives in the same city.
“But that doesn’t mean you should be afraid to speak out about things that can be for a positive change.”
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In a series of messages posted on his Instagram account on October 15, Hamilton labeled the world a “mess” and wrote that he felt like “giving up on everything” before encouraging everyone to go vegan.
“Honestly, I feel like giving up on everything. Shut down completely. Why bother when the world is such a mess and people don’t seem to care,” he wrote to his 13.1 million followers.
But the Mercedes driver has suffered a backlash over those posts, with some claiming his messages were hypocritical considering Formula One’s large carbon footprint.
According to CleanTechnica, a single team could travel over 109,000 air miles over the 21-race calendar, meaning in total, all ten teams would be burning approximately 147 million pounds of carbon dioxide just to showcase the sport around the globe.
Former rival, Fernando Alonso, told Spanish radio station Cope: “I would never release a message like Lewis. You can’t send out a message on one day, and on the next day do the opposite.
“We all know the lifestyle that Lewis has, and that Formula 1 drivers take 200 planes a year. You can’t then say: ‘don’t eat meat.’”
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Insisting he had “no interest whatsoever” in racing in Formula E – F1’s electric counterpart – Hamilton said he would continue to speak out on issues close to his heart.
“I’m always looking at things and how I can improve the effect that I’m having on the world,” he explained. “And it’s something that I guess just 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’d feel like I wasn’t doing anything positive if I didn’t mention it.”
Hamilton went vegan in 2017 and invested in a plant-based restaurant in London earlier this year.
He also gave a list of changes he hopes to have implemented in F1 to achieve carbon neutrality and “push all the industries” on environmental change.
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The 34-year-old hopes to have biodegradable water bottles in canteens, to have the typically all-leather interiors of cars changed to faux-leather and, alongside Tommy Hilfiger, to have 100% of all the clothes made from sustainable and either recycled fabrics or faux-leather, faux-suede fabrics.
And Hamilton received support from some of his fellow F1 drivers.
Ferrari driver Sebastian Vettel said: “It is very difficult for us to have acceptance from the outside because we don’t have the smallest [carbon] footprint. The races are around the world and we do have to travel.
“But I feel F1 should do more. It is a worldwide operating platform and we should send a more positive message.
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“Everyone can do something, contribute a little bit and if the whole world acted like that it would make a huge difference. It is inevitable change is coming and hopefully sooner rather than later.”
Red Bull’s Alexander Albon added: “What Lewis said was really good. Just because we are in F1 doesn’t mean we can’t care about the environment.”
Hamilton can wrap up his sixth driver’s championship at the Mexican GP if he secures 14 points more than teammate Valtteri Bottas.