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Hamilton speaks out on human rights ahead of Saudi F1 debut

03 December 2021 - 09:42 By Reuters
Lewis Hamilton ahead of the F1 Grand Prix of Saudi Arabia at Jeddah Corniche Circuit on December 2 2021.
Lewis Hamilton ahead of the F1 Grand Prix of Saudi Arabia at Jeddah Corniche Circuit on December 2 2021.
Image: Hassan Ammar - Pool/Getty Images

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 LGBTQI+ intolerance, and will wear it again this weekend in Saudi, where gay sex is a criminal offence.

"Do I feel comfortable here? I wouldn't say 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 LGBTQI+ community was "pretty terrifying".

"There are 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 women are still in prison for driving many, many years ago.

"There are a lot of changes that need to happen and I think our sport needs to do more."

Formula One boss Stefano Domenicali has argued 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 recently told Sky Sports television.

Formula One launched a "We Race As One" campaign last year to help highlight and tackle issues including 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 the more powerful tool is the positive weapon," he said.


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