The promoter of the Saudi Arabian Grand Prix talked to a number of Formula 1 drivers about their concerns regarding human rights ahead of the inaugural race in the kingdom.
F1 will race in Saudi Arabia for the first time in December on a street circuit in Jeddah. Since the race was announced, the organizers have faced a number of questions about the country’s human rights record, and the sport itself has also been criticized for the juxtaposition with its ‘WeRaceAsOne’ campaign.
Last year, Lewis Hamilton called the human rights issues faced in a number of locations that F1 races “a consistent and massive problem”. Saudi race promoter HRH Prince Khalid Bin Sultan Al Faisal spoke to some drivers at the British Grand Prix, and said he is open to meeting with Hamilton about the topic.
“For sure, not only Lewis Hamilton, but anyone, a normal person, or the media,” the chairman of the Saudi Arabian Automobile and Motorcycle Federation said. “In Silverstone I met a couple of drivers – I won’t name their names, but Lewis wasn’t one of them – and they addressed their concerns.
“I spoke with them openly and said ‘Listen, I’m not going to tell you anything. You come to Saudi Arabia, and you see it, and if you want to come before the race, you can come and judge yourself. Whatever I say about my country, it is better for you to come and see it yourself, meet with the local people, and there you can have your opinion.’
“I’m sure you have friends from teams that came for Formula E or Dakar, you can ask and have your opinion. We are inviting anyone from the media who would love to come to Saudi, even before the race, you can come and have a chance to see our country freely and then say your opinion about our country, as we are confident about what we have progressed and where we are going, so we have no issues.”
Prince Khalid was speaking after Saudi Arabia opened up the first ticket sales for the race, but he noted work has also been ongoing with F1 itself when it comes to human rights concerns.
“The human rights is very important for us; not only regarding Formula 1 or not, regarding our kingdom and people who live in Saudi Arabia,” he said. “I know we have maybe some different things that can happen, (where in) other places it’s not necessarily the same here, but this is human rights, the quality of life in Saudi Arabia.
“This is an initiative from the government, so we work closely with F1 so we are both aligned with our missions, Saudi mission and F1’s obligations for human rights, so as of now things are progressing really good between us. This is part of our strategy – Saudi Arabia. We are opening up our country. We want to prove the quality of life for anybody, for the Saudis or anyone that visits Saudi Arabia, this will help us achieve our goals.”