Sebastian Vettel’s disparaging remarks directed at Italian President Sergio Mattarella, before the 2022 Italian Grand Prix, have come under fire in the country’s media, with an apology demanded from the four-time Formula 1 World Champion for his words.
Monza, as many circuits on the F1 calendar including Silverstone have in the past, including this year – on the occasion of the venue’s 100th anniversary and Ferrari’s 75th – arranged for a flyover by the Italian airforce as part of the occasion.
After the aerial display, which released smoke behind the jets in the colour of the Italian flag to the roar of the crowd, 35-year-old Vettel took a swipe: “I heard the president insisted on having the flybys. He’s about 100 years old, so maybe it’s difficult for him to let go of this kind of ego things.
“The flybys – we were promised they were gone, and it seems that the president has to change his mind and F1 just gives in despite the boards around the track and the certain goals on making the world a better place. They just need to be moving away from being influenced,” added Vettel.
Vettel, a veteran of 293 Grand Prix starts many of which would have featured airforce or airliner flybys, has become increasingly active in tackling social issues close to his heart, even calling himself a hypocrite for being an F1 driver; a sport that has made him extremely rich and incredibly famous, but at the same time has had a massive negative environmental impact.
Vettel’s reaction spread on Italian social media, the big news organisations tagging on to the story too, with ANSA reporting that the president of the Automobile Club Milano, Geronimo La Russa said Vettel’s words shortly after the Frecce Tricolori flew over the Monza were “bad mannered” and thanked the President for attending the race on Sunday.
La Russa: Unfortunate that a former world champion has slipped on controversy as useless as it is specious
The report adds that La Russa “condemned statements made by Vettel, who criticised President of the Republic Sergio Mattarella and the passage of the Frecce Tricolori over the Monza Autodrome.”
“A fall in style,” declared La Russa in reaction to Vettel’s comments. “I was always taught that the president of the Republic is listened to and not commented on. Especially if you are a guest of a foreign country.
“The flyover of the Frecce Tricolori are an Italian pride. And even yesterday in Monza they confirmed themselves as one of the most awaited and applauded attractions.
“A liking that also concerns those who followed the Grand Prix on television and certified by the flood of likes that the posts published on Social with the Frecce Tricolori protagonists have obtained and continue to obtain.”
“It is unfortunate that a former world champion, who moreover won his first GP precisely in Monza, has slipped on controversy as useless as it is specious. It only remains for him to apologize to President Mattarella and to all Italians,” concluded Geronimo.
Indeed Monza has been kind to Vettel, since winning the race in 2008 with Toro Rosso, he repeated the feat with Red Bull during two of his four F1 world championship winning years, in 2011 and 2013.
The German also drove for Ferrari from 2015 to 2020, finishing runner-up to Mercedes driver Lewis Hamilton in 2017 and 2018. Vettel will retire at the end of the year, thus this year’s Italian Grand Prix was his last.
Race of Champions beckons for Vettel
Meanwhile, very early into his F1 retirement, Vettel will line up for this year’s Race Of Champions from January 28-29, 2023 on the snow and ice of Sweden’s Pite Havsbad
Some of motorsport’s all-time greats will now head to Sweden in January to race head-to-head in identical cars on ROC’s iconic parallel track – where the winner is decided by driver skill alone
Multiple Formula 1 World Champions Sebastian Vettel and Mika Hakkinen will be in action, alongside double W Series Champion Jamie Chadwick
Norway’s Petter and Oliver Solberg will defend the ROC Nations Cup title they won earlier this year, while home fans can cheer for Sweden’s four-time FIA World Rallycross Champion Johan Kristoffersson