The FIA has come under criticism for choosing former F1 racer Vitaly Petrov as its driver steward for this weekend’s Portuguese Grand Prix, due to previous comments made by the Russian.
Petrov (pictured at right, above, with Sebastian Vettel at the 2019 Russian GP) was quoted in Russian publication Championat last month as questioning the FIA and Formula 1 for allowing drivers to make public displays of support for the Black Lives Matter movement, with many taking a knee on the grid before races.
“What if one of the drivers comes out as gay?” Petrov said. ”Will they go out with a rainbow flag and urge everyone else to become gay or something? There are a lot of examples. I don’t think the FIA will allow such actions to continue.”
Despite those quotes and F1’s ‘We Race As One’ campaign, Petrov was named as the driver steward for this weekend’s race at Portimao, something Hamilton was surprised by.
“I mean, I’ve not seen all of the quotes,” Hamilton said. “Obviously you’ve just recited some of them so yes, of course I would say that’s a surprise that they would be hiring someone that has those beliefs and is so vocal about things that we’re trying to fight against. So you should take it up with them really, there’s nothing that I can particularly do about it.
“But we should definitely be including people here who are with the times, who are understanding of the times that we are living in and sensitive to the matters that are surrounding us. So I don’t really understand what their goal is or why particularly he’s here, because it’s not like they don’t have any other good options.”
The decision to use Petrov as a steward was also criticized by LGBTQ+ movement Racing Pride, which issued a statement suggesting the FIA’s own Code of Ethics should have ensured such a situation was avoided.
“Racing Pride wishes to express its concern at the appointment of Vitaly Petrov as an FIA Driver Steward for this weekend’s Portuguese Grand Prix in light of his recent, widely reported public comments relating to the #WeRaceAsOne initiative, which were both racist and homophobic in nature,” the statement read.
“Not only do these comments display ignorance relating to inclusion in sport, but we also believe that such comments from an FIA official are incompatible with Article 1.2 of the FIA’s Code of Ethics, which states that ‘participants to the FIA activities’ shall not be discriminated against on the basis of factors including ‘race, skin color, gender, sexual orientation, ethnic or social origin’.
“Racing Pride applauds Formula 1’s recent launch of the #WeRaceAsOne initiative and the position of FIA President Jean Todt, stated in the foreword to the FIA Code of Ethics, that ‘The FIA is a truly diverse and multicultural organization, and we, the FIA community, must all embrace the same ethical principles’.
“A commitment to inclusion is a fundamental principle of good sporting governance. However, in order to be effective, such a commitment must extend to all involved in the sport, in any capacity.
“It is essential that those who are appointed to positions of authority within the sport, especially, are sensitive to, and educated in, pertinent issues and correct terminology relating to diverse communities.
“Racing Pride would be happy to work with the FIA and Formula 1 in providing such education in relation to the LGBTQ+ community, and indeed has already reached out to Formula 1 directly. We hope to work alongside all organizations and stakeholders within the sport who share our commitment to providing a safe and welcoming environment for all.”