Sebastian Vettel, a Formula 1 driver from Germany, made a splash last month when he wore rainbow-colored attire at the F1 Grand Prix of Hungary to support the rights of LGBTQ people.
There was a rainbow sweeping up the side of his trainers and across his racing helmet; a Pride-colored face mask as he walked around the track; and that T-shirt bearing the message: ‘Same Love.’
“It’s the name of a beautiful song by Macklemore, and I think it explains in a nice way some of the wrong perceptions people have,” Vettel says.
“It doesn’t matter your skin color, it doesn’t matter your background, it doesn’t matter where you come from, it doesn’t matter who you fall in love with. In the end, you just want equal treatment for everybody.”
Hungary’s right-wing government is anti-LGBTQ and Vettel used his platform as a driver to call attention to that. Vettel’s action meant a lot to Matt Bishop, Aston Martin’s chief communications officer, and founder of Racing Pride. Vettel, a four-time world champion, races for Aston Martin.
“I joke that, when I arrived nearly 30 years ago, I was the only gay in the F1 village,” said Bishop.
“Now I’m not that, but LGBTQ+ people in Formula 1 are still a rarity. So to have someone like Seb, who is a straight man who completely understands that one should be able to live and let live, and love and make love to whoever you like, is very heartening. It’s what we call allyship, and as I said to Sebastian, it meant a lot to me.”
Vettel’s actions won widespread applause from within the sport, with Lewis Hamilton saying he would join Vettel in wearing the same shirt.
“I was surprised it was so much of a big deal,” Vettel said. “Ideally, there wouldn’t be any reaction because it’s just normal.”
Vettel was reprimanded by F1 for wearing the shirt over his racing uniform during the Hungarian national anthem in violation of a dress code (three other drivers were also reprimanded for the same offense), but he said he did not regret taking the action.
Allies like Vettel are important to helping support LGBTQ people in sport and I love how unapologetic he was about what he had done. “I wasn’t nervous or embarrassed by the rainbow colors, or of what people think,” Vettel said. “I wanted to send a message, and I was very proud to do it.”