Formula 1

Di Grassi expands on criticism of ‘greenwashing’ Vettel

by Sam Smith
4 min read

Lucas di Grassi has expanded upon his social media criticism of Sebastien Vettel’s comments that questioned Formula E’s road relevance.

The 2016-17 Formula E champion has told The Race that Vettel was “very misinformed” and that the soon-to-be-retired F1 driver had a “lack of understanding” about Formula E and its relevancy to road cars.

Di Grassi, who was recently confirmed with the Mahindra Formula E team for 2023, also questioned Vettel’s whole understanding of Formula E and speculated that his environmental credentials could be “greenwashing” and “not what he truly believes”.

Vettel’s comments were made via the German newspaper Zeit earlier this week where he stated that the technology road map of Formula E and its relevance to road cars should be questioned.

He was initially asked if he might be interested in a role within Formula E to continue his environmental advocacy but said: “I don’t want to be a mascot and I don’t want to put my face forward for something that doesn’t fully convince me.

“I don’t understand the meaning behind it [Formula E]. The battery technology that is being developed has nothing to do with the technology that a normal car could use.

“It is not good for the environment if the batteries are charged not with renewable energy but with fossil fuels.”

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In his initial tweet following Vettel’s comments di Grassi said that “to say that the technology of the cars are less relevant to the future of automobiles…. [he] either has no idea of what he is talking about or is trying to mislead the general public on purpose”.

“And/or all that green stuff he has been doing lately – collecting trash, riding bicycles etc – is completely greenwashing, not what he truly believes,” he added.

“So, whatever [whether] he likes or not the series, he should be supportive of it. That’s all.”

Di Grassi, who raced against Vettel in the 2005 F3 Euroseries, told The Race that he stands by his criticism because he views Vettel’s comments as ill-informed.

“He’s an interesting guy, he was one of the best drivers ever to exist and he’s won four titles and is a legend so I’m not questioning his driving skills,” di Grassi said.

“I’m questioning his understanding of technology because when he says that Formula E is not relevant how is Formula 1 relevant then?

“I understand this turn he took in his career this year to protect bees, to ride bicycles, etc. I really admire that. But then you have to be true to your word too.”

Specifically, di Grassi was riled by Vettel’s opinion on whether Formula E was relevant to the automotive industry despite 12 major OEMs having competed in it to date.

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The all-electric world championship has also evidenced several cross-pollinated technical components and technologies to the automotive industry.

These include software applications and also the use of silicon carbide in powertrains to increase efficiency. This had a clear crossover with some manufacturers into their EV products and has also helped with reducing the weight and cost of their vehicles as well as increasing the power density of control electronics.

This technology was first used by the Venturi team in 2015 via a partnership with the ROHM semiconductor specialist company.

Di Grassi also expanded on his frustration with Vettel’s comments after he began to promote his own sustainability messages last year.

“I’m not at all discussing if he should participate [in Formula E], I don’t think it is the place for him, the money he will make in Formula E is irrelevant to what he’s made in his career, so why would he?” said di Grassi.

“Maybe Formula E is too slow at the moment or too ‘whatever’ for him, I don’t know.

“He has his own choices, these I’m not questioning, what I’m questioning is on the technology side that he raised, which is very misinformed, to say the least.

“He didn’t even criticise the championship itself. He was saying that the technology is not relatable to cars, the battery is not the same chemistry and the championship has no point in existing because it doesn’t develop relevant technology. But in fact, this is exactly what Formula 1 does.

“So, for me, it was either a lack of understanding of exactly how Formula E works, or he just doesn’t understand what he’s talking about.”

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