Lewis Hamilton remains uncomfortable as F1 season lands in Saudi Arabia

The country’s human rights record has been openly discussed

Lewis Hamilton speaking ahead of the Saudi Arabian Grand Prix (Hassan Ammar/AP)
Lewis Hamilton speaking ahead of the Saudi Arabian Grand Prix (Hassan Ammar/AP)

Lewis Hamilton has reiterated his stance that he feels uncomfortable racing in Saudi Arabia.

Formula One is back in Jeddah this weekend for the second round of the new campaign following the country’s debut appearance in December.

Speaking ahead of last year’s race, seven-time world champion Hamilton said: “Do I feel comfortable here? I wouldn’t say I do.”

On Friday, human rights’ group, Reprieve, said a further 16 people have been killed since the mass execution of 81 men on March 12.

The United Nations’ High Commissioner for Human Rights, claimed more than half of the 81 were killed for taking part in pro-democracy protests.

“My position is still the same as last year”, said Hamilton, 37. “It is obviously mind-blowing to hear the stories.

“I have heard there is a letter that has been sent to me from a 14-year-old who is on death row here. At 14, you don’t know what the hell you are doing in life.

“We don’t decide where we go to race in Formula One, but while it is not necessarily our responsibility, we are duty-bound to try and do what we can.

“It is important we try to educate ourselves, and with a little bit of difference, we can try to make sure we are doing something.

“But ultimately, it is the responsibility of those who are in power to really make the changes and we are not really seeing enough. We need to see more.”

Seven-time world champion Hamilton has become the grid’s leading voice in tackling awareness on major issues facing society.

Asked here if he was willing to sit down with the Saudi authorities, he added: “It shouldn’t be our responsibility to have to do that. But it is obviously a very complex situation.

“I am always open to having a discussion, to learning more and trying to understand exactly why things are happening and why they are not changing. It is 2022, and it is easy to make changes.”

F1 has agreed a 15-year deal to race in Saudi Arabia, with the venue set to move from Jeddah to a purpose-built venue in Qiddiya, 25 miles outside of capital Riyadh, in the coming seasons.

F1 CEO Stefano Domenicali told Sky Sports: “When we hear this kind of news [about the executions], it is quite alarming.

“But I’m a true believer in the fact that sport has to make sure that human rights is at the centre of our agenda, together with the country where we are going.

“If I take a step back, last year we saw a lot of women, and a lot of young people attending the race live. That is the right direction to take.

“The fact that we’re going to be in Saudi Arabia, provides the intensity of the spotlight around a subject that maybe without us would have a different place in the news.”

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