Aston Martin’s Sebastian Vettel organised a karting event just for Saudi Arabian women ahead of the inaugural Grand Prix in the country.
Aside from the role of a driver, Sebastian Vettel has also taken upon himself the role of a voice against injustice and inequality. He has been openly critical of the attitudes towards women and members of the LGBTQ+ community in many countries, including the Kingdom Of Saudi Arabia.
Instead of just talking and pointing out the inequality in many instances, Vettel this year has chosen to get his hands dirty and do things on the ground level as well. This time is no different.
— Andy (@AWKrey) December 2, 2021
The four-time world champion organised a women’s only karting event in Saudi Arabia. He hired a local karting track and invited female drivers to learn from his experience and share their stories.
“Obviously there has been a lot of talk and thought about heading into the race here, the first time we race in Saudi Arabia,” said the Aston Martin driver. “There are a lot of questions that have been asked and I have asked myself, so I was thinking of what I can do.”
“There has been so much attention on negative examples when it comes to shortcomings of certain countries in regards to maybe human rights and other things, so I really tried to think of the positives.”
“I set up my own karting event today under the hashtag #raceforwomen, and I think a group of seven or eight girls and women were on the track. We set up a nice event only for them and I was trying to pass on some of my experiences in life and on track, to do something together to grow their confidence.”
Sebastian Vettel is willing to keep an open mind
Even after the ban on women driving was lifted in 2017, there is much more to be achieved in terms of equality for the nation, which has been described as one which “essentially treats women as permanent legal minors”, according to a report by Human Rights Watch.
Hence, Vettel saw fit to organise this women’s only event so that he could actively listen to the women themselves. While the women drivers were able to learn from the German’s vast experience as a racer, Vettel claims that he also benefitted from the interaction.
“I have to say I was inspired by their stories and their background and the positivity about the change in the country,” said the former Ferrari driver.
“It is true that if we look through a western or European lens that there are still lots of things that should be improved and have to be addressed. But it is also true that some things are changing and for those people, it makes a huge difference.
Has your karting event also changed your perspective on Saudi Arabia?
Vettel: “Yes, I think we have to be careful, I mean we’re among ourselves all weekend and we don’t really have much contact with the country tbh. So it’s very difficult to make a judgment in these few days.”
— tami. (@Vetteleclerc) December 2, 2021
“In the end, it is challenging for us coming to a country where we only spend a couple of days, and we try to be a perfect judge, but not knowing the background exactly and the people inside out.
“But this way I think it was important for me to get to know these women. I think it was a very memorable and inspiring day and great way to kick off the weekend. As I said focusing on the positive.”