CNN  — 

Since his first Formula One race 12 years ago, Ferrari driver Sebastian Vettel has seen the sport change dramatically: New teams, new races, new technology; F1 is no stranger to evolution.

But the sport is increasingly facing questions as to what it is doing to deal with F1’s environment impact and what more can be done to help offset it.

According to CleanTechnica, a single team could travel over 109,000 air miles over the 21-race calendar, meaning in total, all 10 teams would be burning approximately 147 million pounds of carbon dioxide just to showcase the sport around the globe.

That’s the same amount of emissions that come from charging over 8.5 billion smartphones.

Vettel would like to see F1’s resources and knowledge used to put the sport front and center in the struggle to develop a more environmentally friendly world.

“If we can be the formula to actually develop what the world can use and needs, that would be great,” Vettel told CNN Sport’s Amanda Davies.

“Because then any question or doubt you have about Formula One, whether it’s necessary or not, if we can provide a solution to the future to make a giant leap forward, then that’s great.”

READ: When the US Grand Prix was staged in a Las Vegas parking lot

Vettel during practice for the F1 Grand Prix of USA.

An important issue

F1’s environmental impact was thrown into sharp focus following comments made by Vettel’s former rival Lewis Hamilton.

In a series of messages posted on his Instagram account on October 15, Hamilton labeled the world a “mess” and wrote that he felt like “giving up on everything” before encouraging everyone to go vegan.

But the Mercedes driver suffered a backlash over those posts, with some claiming his messages were hypocritical considering Formula One’s large carbon footprint.

Former rival, Fernando Alonso, told Spanish radio station Cope: “I would never release a message like Lewis. You can’t send out a message on one day, and on the next day do the opposite.

“We all know the lifestyle that Lewis has, and that Formula 1 drivers take 200 planes a year. You can’t then say: ‘don’t eat meat.’”

Vettel’s call to action

Ahead of this weekend’s US Grand Prix race in Austin, Texas, Vettel insists that F1 cannot “close their eyes” in the search for a more environmentally friendly sport.

“For the future, we can’t close our eyes and say we need to do what we’ve been doing for the past 100 years,” Vettel said.

“I think the goal should be to have the same emotions, and even greater emotions, living the same passion for racing, but just in a way that is sustainable.”

However, F1’s tradition is something Vettel thinks they should be proud of and should not be “shutting it down.”

“I love the tradition of the sport, I love the old cars,” he said. “The old cars are obviously a lot worse in terms of how much they are polluting and their technology.

“But it’s not about shutting them down and burning them. I think that’s our heritage and those are our roots and we should be able to, every now and then, bring them up and celebrate them.”

READ: Lewis Hamilton wins Mexico GP but is forced to wait on championship victory

Vettel and Hamilton celebrate on the podium after the Mexican Grand Prix.

Leading the way

While Hamilton received criticism for his perceived hypocrisy towards environmental issues in F1, Vettel was one of the drivers who came out in support of him.

The German thinks Formula One can make positive steps environmentally, while also keeping hold of the excitement and passion that comes hand in hand with it.

“It’s inevitable we have to look at it,” said the 32-year-old Vettel. “We should give the right framework so we can use our engineering power and our intelligence within this environment to actually make a difference.

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“So that one day we can come out and say: ‘Look, we have as much fun as before, everything is the same or better, but with the difference that we’re not polluting any more. We are doing something good and showing the world a good way of doing things a lot better.’”