Motor racing-Hamilton speaks out on human rights ahead of Saudi F1 debut

Formula One F1- Saudi Arabian Grand Prix - Jeddah Corniche Circuit, Jeddah, Saudi Arabia - December 2, 2021 Mercedes' Lewis Hamilton during the press conference Hassan Ammar/Pool via REUTERS

(Reuters) - Seven-times Formula One world champion Lewis Hamilton expressed concern about human rights in Saudi Arabia on Thursday and indicated he did not feel comfortable about having to race in the kingdom.

Saudi Arabia is hosting a grand prix for the first time this weekend, a night race around a street circuit in Jeddah, with rights groups accusing the country of using the event to deflect scrutiny from abuses.

Hamilton, the sport's most successful driver, said he had received a warm welcome on arrival but felt "duty-bound" to speak out.

The Briton, who has used his platform to campaign for diversity and equality, said the Liberty Media-owned sport needed to do more.

He wore a Progress Pride helmet at last month’s Qatar Grand Prix to draw attention to LGBTQ+ intolerance, and will wear it again this weekend in Saudi, where gay sex is also a criminal offence.

"Do I feel comfortable here? I wouldn't say that I do," said the Mercedes driver. "But it's not my choice to be here. The sport has taken the choice to be here."

Hamilton said the law relating to the LGBTQ+ community was "pretty terrifying".

"There's changes that need to be made. For example women's rights of being able to drive (legally) in 2018, it's how they are policed. Some of the women are still in prison from driving many, many years ago.

"So there's a lot of changes that need to happen and I think our sport needs to do more."

Formula One boss Stefano Domenicali has argued that sport can help bring change, even if it will take time for that to happen.

"As soon as these countries choose to be under the spotlight Formula One is bringing, there is no excuse. They have taken the route of a change," the Italian told Sky Sports television recently.

Formula One launched a "We Race As One" campaign last year to help highlight and tackle issues such as racism and inequality.

Four-times world champion Sebastian Vettel said it was clear "some things are not going the way they should" but change took time and he preferred to highlight positive examples of progress.

"For sure there are shortcomings and they have to be addressed but I still feel the more powerful tool is the positive weapon," he said.

(Reporting by Alan Baldwin in London, editing by Ed Osmond)

Article type: metered
User Type: anonymous web
User Status:
Campaign ID: 46
Cxense type: free
User access status: 3
Join our Telegram channel to get our Evening Alerts and breaking news highlights

Next In Motorsport

Motor racing-Alonso has surgery to remove plates from jaw
Motor racing-Wickens to return to cockpit after near fatal crash
Motor racing-Krack joins Aston Martin as F1 team principal
Motor Racing-MotoGP great Rossi to race on four wheels in 2022
Motor racing-Final outcome of Abu Dhabi F1 probe to be announced in March
Motor racing-Executive director Budkowski leaves Alpine F1 team
Motor racing-FIA probe into 2021 Formula One decider picks up speed
Motor racing-American Pierson set for Le Mans 24 Hours debut aged 16
Motor racing-Bolukbasi goes from F1 Esports to racetrack with F2 seat
Motor racing-Montoya rejoins Arrow McLaren in bid for Indy 500 hat-trick

Others Also Read