By Alan Baldwin
MEXICOCITY (Reuters) – Lewis Hamilton detailed on Thursday how he was trying to reduce his carbon footprint and defended his right to speak out on environmental issues while also racing around the world with Formula One.
The Mercedes driver, who can seal his sixth world championship in Mexico this weekend, said he flew less for pleasure, had banned single-use plastic from home and office and aimed to be carbon neutral by the end of the year.
The Briton, who has sold his private jet, said he now flew mostly commercial.
“That’s been a big change in my habits. I’ve avoided trips if I didn’t need to do them,” he said.
He had got rid of some of his collection of luxury cars, which he said he rarely drove anyway, and switched to hybrid or electric models. He said he was also working with the team and Mercedes on a more environmentally-friendly approach.
“I want everything recyclable, down to deodorant, toothbrush, all these kind of things. I’m trying to make as much change as I can in my personal space,” he told reporters ahead of Sunday’s race.
“I feel positive that I am making those changes. I’m encouraging people around me also, my friends are seeing me doing that and also being more conscious.”
Hamilton, who is vegan, attracted both criticism and support after a series of posts on social media last week in which he deplored the state of the planet and said he felt like giving up.
He told reporters on Thursday his comments had been triggered by watching a documentary and he had wanted to raise awareness.
Hamilton said he still loved racing, but had “no interest whatsoever” in switching to the all-electric Formula E series, and accepted criticism for calling for change while continuing to race in F1.
“It is not the easiest because yes we are travelling around the world and we are racing Formula One cars. Our carbon footprint for sure is higher than the average homeowner that lives in the same city,” he said.
“But it doesn’t mean you should be afraid to speak out about things that can be for a positive change.
“I am looking at things and how I can improve the effect I am having on the world. It takes a while. It’s not a quick fix. It’s just about education and I am trying to highlight areas.
“I feel like I wouldn’t be doing anything positive if I didn’t mention it.”
Hamilton’s stance was supported by other Formula One drivers.
“Just because we’re in Formula One, it doesn’t mean we don’t care about the environment,” said Red Bull’s British-born Thai racer Alexander Albon.
Ferrari’s Sebastian Vettel, a four times world champion who stays well clear of social media and keeps his personal life off the radar, said the sport must do more.
“You would be ignorant if you wouldn’t look at it. As Lewis mentioned, it’s very difficult for us to get acceptance from outside because we don’t have the smallest footprint as the races happen around the world,” he said.
“In general, Formula One I feel should do more… we should send a much stronger message. Everybody can do something, contribute a little bit.
“I think it’s inevitable that change is coming and hopefully rather sooner than later.”
(Reporting by Alan Baldwin, editing by Ken Ferris)