On Thursday, the German became the first active F1 driver to participate in Question Time, a long-running production on the BBC, in which a panel of politicians, journalists and others face questions from invited members of the public.
The Aston Martin driver, who sported a “Miami 2060 – first grand prix underwater – Act Now or Swim Later” T-Shirt in Miami last week, has spoken out on a number of issues in recent times including human rights.
Asked whether his opinion on climate change and his profession made him a hypocrite, the German laughed, as did many in the audience, and replied: “It does, it does, and you’re right when you laugh. There are questions I ask myself every day and I’m not a saint.
“Certain things are in my control and certain things are not,” he continued. “It’s my passion to drive a car, I love it and every time I step in the car I love it. Of course, I’m thinking as well: ‘Is this something we should do, travel the world, wasting resources?'”
The four-time world champion, who instantly became the patron saint of remainers when he described Brexit as “a mess”, said the world must stop relying on fossil fuels.
“We need to stop being dependent, and we can, because there are solutions in place. You know, in Britain, you have this sort of goldmine you’re sitting on, which is wind, and you have the ability to increase your energy supply with wind power, solar.
“Every country has its strengths and weaknesses,” he continued. “If you go to Austria, they have the Alps and they have water, they can pump it up, store it, take it back down.
“It’s something that I’m asking myself. There’s certain things that are in my control, and certain things are not. There’s things that I do because I feel I can do them better. Do I take the plane every time? No, not when I can take the car. But there’s certain things in my control, and certain things outside.
“Action should have been taken a long time ago,” he insisted. “We shouldn’t depend on prices we don’t dictate.
“How do we source our energy? In the UK, you have a mixture of gas, coal and oil, Germany is very dependent on Russia and potentially in trouble. What do we do if Russia turns the tap off? We shouldn’t be as dependent.
“We have to shift into the next gear, not just for the reason of becoming independent but also to look after the bigger picture, that we live on a planet that’s as enjoyable as it is today. We should think of ‘peace energy’ or ‘freedom energy’, which is renewable energy. That is the future, not just as a way of protecting people who can’t afford bills but also to protect against the future.”
In defence of F1, environmental issues aside, he said the sport played a positive role, almost suggesting that F1 continued for altruistic reasons as opposed to the need to balance the books.
“We were entertaining people during COVID,” he said. “We were one of the first ones to start again, when everybody’s heads were about to explode.
“I’m not saying Formula 1 has this huge position in the world to deliver entertainment,” he continued. “There’s plenty of people, if you talk about entertainment, sports, culture, comedy, a lot of people who couldn’t perform, and a lot of people missed that. And I think if we didn’t have that, in general, we’d probably go mad.”
As it happens in 2020 F1 had 433 million unique viewers, meaning individual people rather than counting one person who watches three races three times. That figure was down 8% on 2019 as you can see here.
In 2021 this rose by the grand total of 2.8% to 445 million. In contrast, the NFL TV audience rose 10% last year alone.