Sebastian Vettel and Lewis Hamilton have been praised for their "incredible" work towards change in motorsport.
W Series driver Jessica Hawkins - a colleague of Vettel's in her role as an ambassador at Aston Martin - has hailed Vettel as an "amazing person" in light of his recent activism.
Vettel spoke on out behalf of various causes during the 2021 season. This included litter-picking at the British Grand Prix to encourage care for the environment, wearing a rainbow T-shirt in Hungary to support those affected by the country's anti-LGBTQ+ laws, and organising a women-only karting event in Saudi Arabia.
"He is, hand on heart, one of the most amazing people I've ever met," Hawkins told talkSPORT.
"He is using his brand to express how he’s feeling and everything he does, he does because he genuinely means it. He's not doing it for show, he's not doing it for anything other than he truly believes in what he stands up for.
"To have a role model like that, not just for me, but for everybody in the sport is amazing and genuinely I cannot express enough how amazing he is."
Figureheads like Vettel and Hamilton are "needed"
Hawkins has also praised Hamilton's work, with the Mercedes driver having become a key figure in promoting diversity in motorsport.
The seven-time World Champion established The Hamilton Commission to identify the barriers to the recruitment and progression of Black people in UK motorsport. This led to a report being issued last year to recommend actions to address these barriers.
Hawkins believes that the likes of Vettel and Hamilton are vital in continuing to open up the sport to all.
"Any top level sports person to speak out like they have done is incredible, and they're doing what they can while they're in their prime to make change," she explained.
"We need figureheads like that because they are the people in the public eye, and if they're willing to make that step and make that change that's what we need in the sport."
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The impact of key figures speaking out
Hawkins believes that there is a link between the signs of change in recent years and key figures such as Vettel and Hamilton showing their support.
"From when I first started, when I first had a go in a go-kart, I could name two other names of females that were involved in motorsport or certainly ones I was racing around with anyway," the Aston Martin driver said.
"We are seeing more females within the sport, not just drivers, but mechanics, engineers, strategists, marketing, and all of these people have a genuine interest in motorsport.
"I do think that is because we now have a few figureheads and we do have people speaking out, and I think that we're changing the perception.
"The perception is that motorsport is a man’s world and, whilst I think that it still is predominantly men, the perception is changing, which is where some of the issue lies, is the perception, and at Aston Martin [we] are helping drive that change"
As such, Hawkins is hopeful that W Series - now entering into its third season in 2022, during which it will run alongside F1 at eight race weekends - can grow to become the second-biggest four wheeled category in motorsport.
"You could argue that it is W Series. Give it a few years, if it’s not W Series [now] then it will be then," Hawkins added.
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