Lewis Hamilton says Formula 1 drivers are “duty bound” to try and raise awareness of issues in Saudi Arabia and admits he is “open” to meeting those in authority to try and drive change in the country.
F1 heads to Jeddah for the second race of the 2022 season this weekend, with the Saudi Arabian GP taking place weeks after the kingdom carried out 81 executions in a single day.
Human rights group Reprieve says there have been more executions in the lead-up to the Grand Prix and criticised the sport for recently agreeing a long-term contract with Saudi Arabia to take a spot on the calendar.
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Hamilton, who said when F1 raced in the country for the first time last November that he was “not comfortable”, stressed that it was not up to the drivers to choose where to race but called for more changes.
“We don’t decide where we go, and I think we’re duty bound to try and do what we can,” Hamilton said on Friday before first practice.
“It’s not necessarily our responsibility that we’re brought here but we try and do what we can, and I think it’s important that we just try to educate ourselves.
“Ultimately it’s the responsibility of those in power to really make changes, and we’re not really seeing any. So we need to see more.”n also said his “position is still the same” as last year, when he hit out at the kingdom’s human rights.
“There’s not really a lot I can say that’s going to make any difference,” the seven-time world champion stated. “It’s obviously mind-blowing to hear the stories.
“I’ve heard that there’s a letter being sent to me by a 14-year-old that’s on death row. 14! You don’t know what the hell you’re doing in life.”
Simon Lazenby is joined by Johnny Herbert and Paul Di Resta to look ahead to the Saudi Arabian GP
Hamilton may have been referring to a letter sent to him by Abdullah al-Howaiti, who as per The Guardian was arrested aged 14 and sentenced to death in 2019 when 17 years old. His family have pleaded with Hamilton to intervene.
McLaren driver Daniel Ricciardo said drivers were “aware” of the issues in Saudi Arabia but expressed: “I think by coming here we also have a chance to create some change or have some positive influence as opposed to not coming here. I know F1’s doing a lot. McLaren are also trying to inspire and create opportunities.
“I think there is a positive impact we can have by coming here. We’re still trying to do more, do our best to create that and influence that in a better way.”
F1 has shared positive updates from the Saudi Arabian GP promoter for this weekend, including that 40 per cent of the Corniche circuit’s team are female and that 500 orphans and people with a disability have been invited to watch the race.