Lewis Hamilton says Formula 1 needs to do more to address human rights in countries it races in after a call from British politicians for an independent inquiry ahead of this weekend’s Bahrain Grand Prix.
F1 starts its season in Bahrain and Saudi Arabia and CEO Stefano Domenicali recently claimed the sport can be a “positive” force in those countries given their recent human rights records. A letter from British members of parliament highlighted Saudi Arabia’s execution of 81 prisoners in a single day in 2022, as well as the rate at which Bahrain imprisons its population, with the Bahrain Institute for Rights and Democracy (BIRD) claiming “evidence demonstrates otherwise” when it comes to F1 helping improve matters.
Asked about those claims, Hamilton says he doesn’t feel the sport does enough to effect change in countries that have poor records.
“I couldn’t say whether or not I know that it’s got worse,” Hamilton said. “I’m not sure it has got better while we’ve been coming all these years. I know for me, I’ve only in the latter years started to understand more and more of the challenges of the people here in Bahrain, and also then in Saudi, it was my first time there last year but of course I read about some of the troubles there.
“I’ve always felt that we have a responsibility, and if a sport is going to go to these countries, we are duty-bound to raise awareness and leave a positive impact in these places. That view has not always been shared within the sport, whether it’s teams or people in high-power positions. But more needs to be done, without doubt. Whether or not that will happen, time will tell.”
Hamilton’s comments came after the open letter was sent from 20 cross-party members of the UK parliament to the FIA and F1, claiming the two organizations play a part in “ongoing sportswashing” and can’t offer proof of claims independent audits take place to monitor change.
“We condemn F1’s refusal to engage with key stakeholders including human rights groups, such as the Bahrain Institute for Rights and Democracy when awarding Bahrain the longest contract in F1 history, breaching F1’s own policy,” the letter stated.
“Multimillion dollar profits must not come at the expense of human rights. You have a duty to ensure your presence has a positive impact, which will not be possible whilst political prisoners remain behind bars in Bahrain. If Lewis Hamilton can speak out, why can’t you?”