The British legend said ahead of the Bahrain Grand Prix on Thursday that the sport can no longer ignore human rights issues in the countries that it holds races in.
Answering press inquiries before the season opening race due to be held on Sunday, Hamilton opposed Formula 1’s official stance that the sport is in no position to address such issues.
“There are issues all around the world but I do not think we should be going to these countries and just ignoring what is happening in those places, arriving, having a great time and then leaving,” said the seven-time world champion.
The Al Khalifa family, which is in charge of the government in Bahrain, has long been accused by human rights advocates of violently cracking down on the opposition.
Available evidence also strongly suggest that Bahrain’s security forces have been regularly using imprisonment, torture and mass executions to discourage dissent since the beginning of the clashes with the opposition in 2011.
Hamilton told reporters that he has been doing his own research on the issue over the past several months and has already taken a range of “private” actions.
“Coming here all these years I was not aware of all of the details of the human rights issues. I have spent time speaking to legal human rights experts, to human rights organisations like Amnesty.
“I have been to see the UK ambassador here in Bahrain and spoken to Bahraini officials also. At the moment the steps I have taken have been private and I think that is the right way to go out about it but I am definitely committed to helping in any way I can,” said the 36-year-old.
The F1 world champion’s latest remarks spell trouble for Stefano Domenicali, the F1 chief, who has dismissed calls by 61 British MPs and 24 rights groups to launch an investigation.
“It is important to make clear that Formula 1 is not a cross-border investigatory organisation,” Domenicali wrote in response.
“We are a sports rightsholder that has the important job of promoting our sport across the world in line with the policies I have set out. Unlike governments and other bodies we are not able to undertake the actions you request, and it would not be appropriate for us to pretend we can.”
The Bahrain Institute for Rights and Democracy (BIRD), which has been leading the effort, has blasted the F1 chief’s response.
“We simply do not accept that a multimillion-pound business doesn’t have the resources or capacity to establish such an inquiry. F1 should urgently review their position,” said Sayed Ahmed Alwadaei, Bird’s director of advocacy.
The sport has shown no interest in addressing ongoing rights issues around the world.
Last year, Hamilton and several other drivers openly spoke about the Black Lives Matter movement in the United States and the need for F1 to take an official stance.
However, the sport’s response never went beyond a carefully orchestrated online campaign that involved the hashtag #We_race_as_one.
Formula 1 further showed its disregard for human rights concerns last year, when it agreed to an offer by Saudi Arabia to host a race in the kingdom at the end of the 2021 season despite widespread outrage from fans and rights advocates alike.
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