Hamilton says he is 'duty-bound' to discuss rights in Saudi Arabia

Before last year's race, Lewis Hamilton said he was ‘not comfortable’ racing in Saudi Arabia. ― Reuters pic
Before last year’s race, Lewis Hamilton said he was ‘not comfortable’ racing in Saudi Arabia. ― Reuters pic

JEDDAH, March 26 ― Lewis Hamilton yesterday again used the Saudi Arabian Grand Prix to spotlight the country’s record on rights, adding that he had heard “mind-blowing” accounts.

Before last year’s race, Hamilton said he was “not comfortable” racing in Saudi Arabia.

Yesterday, the seven-time world champion again said he believed it was important to raise awareness.

“My position is still the same as when I spoke on this last year. There is not really a lot that I can say that is going to make any difference.”

“The sport has taken the choice to be here and, whether it is right or wrong, I think that while we are here, again, it is important we try to raise awareness,” he said.

“We don’t decide where we go, but we’re duty-bound to try and do what we can while we are here. It is not necessarily our responsibility, but we try and do what we can.”

Last year in Jeddah, Hamilton mentioned women’s rights. That race also came shortly after he wore a helmet in the Qatar Grand Prix decked in a rainbow in support of the LGBTQ+ community.

This year his comments came less than two weeks after the reported execution of 81 people on March 12 in Saudi Arabia.

He said yesterday that one 14-year-old had reached out to him with a harrowing letter.

“It is obviously mind-blowing to hear the stories,” Hamilton said. “I have heard there is a letter that has been sent to me, for example, from a 14-year-old that is on death row.

“At 14, you don’t know what the hell you are doing in life…”

“I think 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 that are in power to really make the changes and we are not really seeing enough. We need to see more.”

Hamilton’s comments came on a day when he continued to have on-track struggles with the difficult 2022 Mercedes car, redesigned for the second ‘ground effect’ era in F1.

“We have issues and we’re fighting to fix them,” he said. “There’s a lot of potential within our car. We’re just trying to work as hard as we can to rectify them as quick as possible.

Hamilton finished third in the season-opening Bahrain Grand Prix behind the two Ferraris, but was also outpaced for most of the race by the two Red Bulls before they were halted by late fuel problems.

“I don’t currently feel too stressed. But I want to get in the fight as soon as possible. We need to move fast forward as fast as we can.” ― AFP