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Back on track: Sebastian inspires disadvantaged youngsters in London

The starting point of a journey doesn't always determine its destination.

Sebastian Vettel

As we endeavour to have a positive impact on the communities around us as part of the 'Make a Mark' arm of our ESG programme, Sebastian Vettel sought to learn more about the challenges facing young people at Feltham Young Offenders Institution (YOI) and Oasis Johanna Primary School.

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Sebastian Vettel makes his mark in London

Join Sebastian Vettel for an exclusive behind-the-scenes look at his day in London. This is INSIDER, London.

#IAMSTORIES | London
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Giving young offenders a second chance

Less than a week after racing at the inaugural Miami Grand Prix, Sebastian was in London to open a brand-new, fully equipped workshop at Feltham YOI, heralding the launch of a programme for young offenders to train as mechanics.

Eager to shine a spotlight on how Feltham YOI is rehabilitating young men who've made mistakes and learn how it's giving them the skills for a successful reintegration into society, Sebastian took the time to talk to the young men about the career opportunities that exist beyond the walls of Feltham YOI thanks to the new programme.

Having considered studying mechanical engineering at university before his racing career took off, Sebastian is renowned as a driver with a keen engineering eye.

In the pursuit of performance, he's always embraced every opportunity to understand why a car performs the way it does, and he encouraged the young offenders to do the same.

"My advice is to be curious – be open," said Sebastian. "The cars that end up in the workshop can be seen in so many ways: you can see the materials, the manufacturing, the design, and how to take them apart and put them back together. There are so many elements that you can be interested in.

It's easy to have preconceptions about what people in somewhere like a prison are like, and we forget that they're still people.
Sebastian Vettel
Sebastian Vettel

"Giving young people, especially those who are in a difficult situation, a second chance is very important. Not everybody has the same chances from the outset in life – and for those who don't, it’s important that we give them those chances to help them wherever we can.

"It's easy to have preconceptions about what people in somewhere like a prison are like – about what they’ve done and the crimes they’ve committed – and we forget that they're still people.

"They have their own story, and you don’t know what drove them to a point where they made a mistake in their lives.

"It was great to hear some of their stories today and to see how Feltham Young Offenders Institution is providing a space like the new workshop where they can discover sides to them that they maybe didn’t know before.

"They will be able to work on cars and experience things that they may want to continue when they are reintegrated into society."

Sebastian opens the workshop

Along with Deputy Prime Minister of the United Kingdom Dominic Raab, Sebastian was joined at Feltham YOI by his No.1 Mechanic, Mikey Brown. From sweeping workshop floors and washing wheels for a touring car team to being a No.2 Mechanic in GTs, Mikey has climbed the motorsport career ladder to be responsible for the build of a four-time World Champion's Formula One car.

He's got there with no university degree, no public school education and no wealthy family members to fall back on for financial support. He's proof that academic excellence is not a requirement for success in life, but passion and hard work are.

"It was a pleasure – and a real eye-opener – to meet the young guys at Feltham Young Offenders Institution and promote the new workshop," said Mikey. "It was great to come along with Seb to talk about what we do and inspire these guys to learn a skill that will benefit them when they are released.

"They’ve all got aspirations and they can achieve them if they work hard and keep pushing for what they believe is possible."

No matter what your background is, a career at the pinnacle of motorsport is never out of reach and Aston Martin F1 is helping to make that even more of a reality for the young men at Feltham YOI.

We're looking to offer a work experience placement to those who have shown the aptitude, ambition and commitment to the new motor mechanics course.

Feltham YOI Governor Natasha Wilson added: "We were so pleased to welcome Aston Martin F1 Team driver Sebastian and Mikey to Feltham Young Offenders Institution to open our new motor mechanics workshop and talk to the young adults here.

"Both Seb and Mikey spoke so well – from the heart – and their visit has given these young men hope and motivation for the future."

Both Seb and Mikey spoke so well – from the heart – and their visit has given these young men hope and motivation for the future.
Natasha Wilson
Feltham Young Offenders Institution Governor
Sebastian Vettel and Mikey Brown

As we strive to reach more young people through the 'Make a Mark' arm of our I / AM programme, Aston Martin F1 will enhance Feltham YOI's learning programme through a series of workshops led by volunteers from the team to teach the fundamentals of F1 mechanics and the opportunities that are available within the industry.

Furthermore, old F1 car parts are being donated to Feltham YOI for use in the learning programme and the workshops spearheaded by the team.

Improving children's mental health in London's most disadvantaged communities

Following his visit to Feltham YOI, Sebastian joined many other London commuters taking the train to Waterloo. His next stop? The Oasis Johanna primary school to open a new therapy room for children.

The school is part of the Oasis Nurture Project, which aims to support very young people badly affected by urban poverty and mental health issues by adding counselling and therapy to the educational curriculum.

With the current worsening crisis in child mental health services against a backdrop of increasing poverty, which has only been exacerbated by the pandemic, the demand for young people's mental health services continues to rise dramatically.

London may be one of the wealthiest cities in the world, but there's an abundance of impoverished communities within the capital. Just a stone's throw away from the affluence of Waterloo and South Bank, Oasis Nurture is trying to help such communities by offering invaluable mental health services to children in the local area.

Like all schools, Oasis Johanna is a place of learning but it's also a place of healing – a haven from the troubles children may be experiencing at home.

The opening of the new therapy room will provide children with somewhere they can talk to skilled mental health practitioners who can help them emotionally heal and overcome the challenges they face.

"It was great to meet so many young kids at the school – they were so excited – and to open a space where children will have the opportunity to share their feelings in the hope of removing serious concerns from their shoulders," said Sebastian.

"Although London is a very rich city, there are still many people living in poverty and many children from a difficult background – but they can have a very bright future as long as we listen to them and give them a voice."

"Having Sebastian visit the school has been fantastic," added Oasis Johanna headteacher Dawn Venn.

"He's really interested in the work that Oasis is doing with its Nurture Project and his visit has brought so much joy: some of the children would never have imagined they would meet someone like Seb.

"He spent so much time with them, talking and playing, and signing lots of autographs. They've had the most amazing time. We’re so grateful to him and Aston Martin F1 for taking the time to visit us and to open our new Nurture therapy room.

“The Nurture therapy rooms we've got in the school are specifically designed to help our children. Instead of having to miss out on learning time due to travelling out of school for therapy and mental health support, the children can get direct access to play therapy, art therapy and individual therapy here in the school building.

"It also means that the therapists are on site, which sees them quickly become familiar to the children within the school – helping them to build trust."

Miami GP

Sebastian talks STEM with school children

Ahead of the inaugural Miami Grand Prix, Aston Martin Aramco Cognizant Formula One™ Team driver Sebastian Vettel swapped the cockpit for the classroom to inspire local school children at Carol City Middle School.

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Sebastian's school visit
Sebastian's school visit

Aston Martin F1 is ensuring, just as we are with Feltham YOI and Carol City Middle School, that our positive impact extends beyond a single visit.

In addition to our Title Partner, Cognizant, delivering additional STEM learning as part of their school outreach programme, we're inviting children from the Oasis Johanna, along with their siblings and a parent, to spend an exciting day at our Silverstone factory where they can learn more about Formula One and enjoy a respite from a challenging home environment.

Everywhere we go, we make a mark on the communities we visit. Every adventure is an opportunity to learn more about the world around us.

Every experience opens our eyes to fresh perspectives and new possibilities. We were moved by the stories of the young people we met at Feltham YOI and Oasis Johanna, and we hope to have inspired them to make their mark.

Sebastian's support

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