Lewis Hamilton says Formula One bosses must follow through with plans to clean up the sport’s image on human rights.
Seven-time world champion Hamilton begins his title parade in Bahrain on Sunday, the first of two races on consecutive weekends in the Gulf Kingdom.
Earlier this week, Amnesty International UK described Bahrain’s record on human rights as “shocking”. Sixteen human rights groups have written jointly to F1 chairman Chase Carey challenging F1’s role in “sportswashing the Bahraini Government’s human rights abuses”.
Hamilton received a copy of the letter on his arrival at the Bahrain International Circuit on Thursday. Thirty cross-party MPs also wrote to Carey voicing their concerns.
F1 recently announced a deal to race in Saudi Arabia for the next 10 years, starting from 2021. The sport has faced criticism for staging rounds in China, Russia, Azerbaijan, and Abu Dhabi — the latter will host this season’s finale on December 13 following the Bahrain double-header.
“The human rights issue in so many of the places that we go to is a consistent and a massive problem,” said Hamilton ahead of Sunday’s race in Manama.
“This year has shown how important it is, not only for us as a sport, but for all the sports around the world, to utilise their platforms to push for change.
— Mercedes-AMG PETRONAS F1 Team (@MercedesAMGF1) November 26, 2020
“We are the only sport that goes to so many different countries, but I do think as a sport we need to do more. We have taken a step in that direction but we can always do more.
“Some steps have been put in place for the countries we go to, but it is important to make sure that they are implemented in the right way and it is not just a saying that we are going to do something, but actually seeing action taken. That is going to take work from us all in the background.”
An F1 spokesperson said: “We have always been clear with all race promoters and Governments with which we deal worldwide that we take violence, abuse of human rights and repression very seriously.
“We have made our position on human rights clear to all our partners and host countries who commit to respect human rights in the way their events are hosted and delivered.”
— Bahrain Int. Circuit (@BAH_Int_Circuit) November 26, 2020
Hamilton wrapped up his record-equalling seventh world championship in Turkey earlier this month.
The 35-year-old is now expected to receive a knighthood in the New Year Honours.
Hamilton said: “It is a surreal experience to hear your name mentioned in the Houses of Parliament, that with all the things going on in the world they have a moment to acknowledge the work I have done.
“As far as I am aware, there is a lot of talk, and I have not thought a lot about it, but it would be an incredible honour. There is no greater honour than your country recognising you with such an award.”
Regarding his sixth title in seven years, Hamilton said: “It has been bad in the sense that I have got a lot of messages and I am trying to catch up. People are probably wondering why I have not got back to them.
“It hasn’t sunk in yet, probably because we are still racing, and I have one eye on the job.”