Lewis Hamilton says Formula 1 needs to do more as a sport to address human rights issues in the countries it visits, describing LGBTQ+ laws in Saudi Arabia “pretty terrifying”.
The seven-time world champion wore a rainbow-colored helmet design in Qatar and says he will do the same at this weekend’s Saudi Arabian Grand Prix on F1’s first visit to the kingdom. As one of the drivers regularly willing to speak up on wider issues, Hamilton was asked if he feels comfortable with F1 racing in Saudi and if it fits with the sport’s ‘WeRaceAsOne’ initiative, and replied that he doesn’t.
“As I said at the last race, that I felt that the sport and we (involved) are duty-bound to try to help raise awareness for certain issues that we’ve seen, particularly human rights in these countries that we’re going to,” Hamilton said. “With the utmost respect to everyone that’s here – so far I’ve had a warm welcome from everyone on the ground – I can’t pretend to ever to be the most knowledgeable or have the deepest understanding of someone who has grown up in the community here that is heavily affected by certain rules and the regime.
“Do I feel comfortable here? I wouldn’t say I do. But it’s not my choice to be here, the sport has taken the choice to be here. Whether it’s right or wrong, whilst we’re here again, I feel it’s important that we do try to raise awareness. In the last race for example, you saw the helmet that I wore. I will wear that again here again and the next race, because that’s an issue.
“And the law, if anyone wants to take the time to read what the law is for the LGBTQ+ community, it’s pretty terrifying. There’s changes that need to be made. Those changes then, for example, women’s rights of being able to drive in 2018, is how they’re policed. Are they really in effect? Why are some of the woman still in prison from driving many, many years ago? There’s a lot of change that needs to happen, and I think our sport needs to do more.”
From a racing standpoint, however, Hamilton said he is excited to get out onto a new track and see the competitive order on a weekend that offers Max Verstappen his first chance seal the world championship.
“It’s different in one sense, because we’ve got two incredibly close teams,” Hamilton said. “It’s different because as a team we’re fighting for uncharted territory, nobody has ever won eight titles – team or driver – so that’s quite fresh and new, and then on the other side, I am more relaxed than I ever have been because I think I’ve just been around a long time, it’s not my first…
“I remember how I was with my first championship, even my second and third. The sleepless nights and all those sorts of things. Obviously, I am a lot more sure of myself, and applied myself better than ever before. I know I can’t change anything from the past, but all I can do is prepare the best I can for what’s ahead of me. I 100% know that I have.”