Lewis Hamilton urged to take a stand as Formula One heads to Saudi Arabia

Lewis Hamilton has been urged to speak out against Saudi Arabia's "appalling" human rights record after it was announced that the country will stage its first Formula One race in 2021.

Saudi officials confirmed on Thursday that a night race will be held on the streets of Jeddah in November of next year. The grand prix is set to be the penultimate event of a record-breaking 23-round calendar.

F1 bosses have attracted criticism for the decision to stage a race in Saudi Arabia because of the country's record on human rights. F1 follows golf, tennis, horse racing and boxing in heading to the Arab kingdom.

Amnesty International has claimed that 13 women's rights defenders are currently on trial in Saudi Arabia, accused of promoting women's rights and calling for the end of the male guardianship system, where every woman must have a male who has the authority to make a number of decisions on her behalf.

Ahead of the last race in Italy, six-time world champion Hamilton wore a T-shirt with the message: "Women's rights are human rights."

And, speaking to the PA news agency, Amnesty International UK's head of campaigns Felix Jakens said: "If the sport's most high-profile driver is willing to speak out and say, 'Actually this is a country that has an appalling human rights record', then that takes the sheen off Saudi Arabia's ability to sportswash its image.

"It would be incredibly important if Lewis could speak out. However, the onus is not just on the star drivers but the whole industry to be aware of what is happening in Saudi Arabia.

"If the right people are prepared to speak out and make those kind of interventions it can really throw Saudi Arabia's human rights' record back under the spotlight and hopefully increase pressure on them to do the right thing.

"Formula One talks about diversification and inclusivity and appealing to LBGT people, so it needs to make a sustained effort on human rights ahead of this race.

"If they can show that everything in their supply chain is free from human rights violations then that would be a big thing. But we also want them to speak out in support of those jailed women's human rights defenders and, more generally, the human rights situation in Saudi Arabia."

In the past, F1 has also faced criticism for staging races in China, Russia, Bahrain, Abu Dhabi and Azerbaijan.

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Lewis Hamilton posing for a picture with his second-placed 2019 BBC Sports Personality of the Year Award.
File photo dated 03-11-2019 of Mercedes driver Lewis Hamilton celebrates winning his sixth world championship after the United States Grand Prix at the Circuit of the Americas, Austin, Texas.
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Winner Mercedes AMG Petronas F1 Team�s British driver Lewis Hamilton (2nd R), second placed Red Bull Racing�s Dutch driver Max Verstappen (2nd L) and third placed Scuderia Ferrari�s Monegasque driver Charles Leclerc (R) celebrate after the Formula 1 Abu Dhabi Grand Prix race at the Yas Marina Circuit in Abu Dhabi. (Photo by Jure Makovec / SOPA Images/Sipa USA)
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Formula One - F1 - United States Grand Prix 2015 - Circuit of the Americas, Austin, Texas, United States of America - 25/10/15Mercedes' Lewis Hamilton celebrates winning the race and the world championshipMandatory Credit: Action Images / Hoch ZweiLivepicPLEASE NOTE: FOR UK EDITORIAL SALES ONLY. FOR ALL OTHER USAGE ADDITIONAL FEES WILL APPLY - PLEASE CONTACT YOUR ACCOUNT MANAGER. FOR EDITORIAL USE ONLY. NOT FOR SALE FOR MARKETING OR ADVERTISING CAMPAIGNS
Formula One - F1 - United States Grand Prix 2015 - Circuit of the Americas, Austin, Texas, United States of America - 25/10/15 Mercedes' Lewis Hamilton celebrates winning the race and the world championship Mandatory Credit: Action Images / Hoch Zwei Livepic PLEASE NOTE: FOR UK EDITORIAL SALES ONLY. FOR ALL OTHER USAGE ADDITIONAL FEES WILL APPLY - PLEASE CONTACT YOUR ACCOUNT MANAGER. *** Local Caption *** - *** Local Caption *** -
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An F1 spokesperson said: "For decades Formula One has worked hard be a positive force everywhere it races, including economic, social, and cultural benefits.

"Sports like Formula One are uniquely positioned to cross borders and cultures to bring countries and communities together to share the passion and excitement of incredible competition and achievement.

"We take our responsibilities very seriously and have made our position on human rights and other issues clear to all our partners and host countries who commit to respect human rights in the way their events are hosted and delivered."

Saudi Arabia's sports minister HRH Prince Abdulaziz bin Turki Al Faisal told the BBC: "Saudi Arabia was criticised for being closed off to the world, and now we've opened up, we're criticised for sports-washing.

"For many Saudis this will be a dream come true. It's a very special moment. We can showcase to the world what we're capable of."

Next year's 23-round F1 schedule is due to be signed off in the coming weeks. It is understood that the campaign will get under way at Melbourne's Albert Park on March 21, with the season to conclude in Abu Dhabi on December 5.

As revealed by the PA news agency last week, the British Grand Prix is set to avoid a direct clash with the Wimbledon men's singles final and football's Euro 2020 showpiece at Wembley.

It is understood the Silverstone round is due to take place on July 18, a week after the conclusion of SW19 and the delayed Euros.

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