Amnesty looks to Hamilton to speak out over Saudi GP

Lewis Hamilton (GBR) Mercedes AMG F1 on the grid.
© XPB 

Human rights organisation Amnesty International is hoping that Lewis Hamilton will spoke out over proposals for Formula 1 to hold a Grand Prix in Saudi Arabia in 2021.

The new race was among those included in the provisional 23-event calendar for next season, and has provoked controversy because of the country's record on human rights in the region.

F1 itself hopes that the addition of a night-race on the streets of Jeddah will have a positive impact on the country. That hope was shared by a number of the sport's leading figures including Toto Wolff, Mattia Binotto and Christian Horner.

But Amnesty has stated that 13 women’s rights defenders are currently on trial in the country accused of promoting women’s rights. Hamilton has been active in campaigning on several global issues in 2020, including the environment, Black Lives Matter and women's rights.

“It would be incredibly important if Lewis could speak out," Amnesty's UK head of campaigns Felix Jakens told the PA news agency.

“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’," he said. "That takes the sheen off Saudi Arabia’s ability to 'sportswash' its image.

"However the onus is not just on the star drivers but the whole industry to be aware of what is happening in Saudi Arabia."

So far, the reigning world champion has been reluctant to be drawn on the issue because he felt he didn't “know enough about the human rights issue that's happening in Saudi Arabia”.

Lewis Hamilton (GBR) Mercedes AMG F1 in the FIA Press Conference.

He continued: “I have some friends that go there and tell me it's a stunning place. But I think it's important that I before I really comment, I know exactly what the issue is.

“Nelson Mandela many years ago said sport has the power to change the world for the better," he added. "We have already seen the positive shifts that we as a sport this year have committed to and started to push in the direction of supporting human rights and equality and inclusivity.

“The current fact is we go to all these countries, and while it is a great event, we don't leave a long lasting positive effect on those places," he pointed out.

“The question is, can we? Can we be a part of bringing attention to certain issues and push them to change?"

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