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Lewis Hamilton says he’s ‘uncomfortable’ racing in Saudi Arabia


“Do I feel comfortable here? I wouldn’t say I do,” Hamilton told reporters on Thursday.

“But this is not my choice. Our sport has chosen here and whether it’s fair or not, I think, while we’re here, it’s still important to do some awareness-raising work.”

This is the first time F1 has hosted a race in Saudi Arabia. Held in the Red Sea port city of Jeddah, the Grand Prix is ​​considered the fastest street race in F1 history, according to the event’s website.

But Saudi Arabia’s human rights record has been repeatedly criticized, and activists have accused the kingdom of “cleansing up sport” – a phenomenon in which corrupt or autocratic regimes invest. into sporting events to whitewash their international reputation.

In November Qatar Grand Prix, Hamilton wears a helmet featuring the Proud Progressive flag, a redesigned and more comprehensive version of the traditional rainbow flag, and emblazoned with the words “We Stand Together.”

This weekend, Hamilton will wear a helmet in Saudi Arabia, where homosexuality is illegal.

Hamilton added: “A lot of change needs to happen and our sport needs to do more of that.

Lewis Hamilton said he was

Earlier this year, the human rights group Grant Liberty estimated that Saudi Arabia has spent about $1.5 billion on “sports bathing” since Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman launched the Visionary master plan. 2030, aimed at reducing the country’s dependence on oil exports.

The country has spent millions of dollars hosting many prestigious sporting events, including golf, horse racing, billiards and chess tournaments, according to Grant Liberty’s 2021. The report.

‘Common Violation’

Human Rights Watch (HRW) accused Saudi Arabia of using this weekend’s general assembly to “distract from widespread human rights abuses” in the country.

“If they do not voice their concerns about the egregious abuses committed by Saudi Arabia, Formula 1 and its performers risk backing the government’s costly efforts. Saudi Arabia to vindicate its image despite a marked increase in repression over the years,” Michael Page, HRW’s deputy director for the Middle East, said in a statement.

“If the authorities want to be seen differently, they should immediately and unconditionally release all those who have been jailed for peaceful expression, lift the travel ban and impose the death penalty,” Amnesty International added in a statement.

Earlier this year, F1’s global director of race promotion Chloe Targett-Adams told CNN sport could be “a catalyst for change.”

When asked by CNN how she would respond when F1 arrives in the Middle East over concerns about human rights and treatment of women, she said: “We’re involved with it from the very beginning of the process because It’s important to us that we know so we can work in a way that aligns with our values.

“We have firm guarantees in the contracts we have with hosts and with race destinations about upholding those values ​​and principles, and that’s a catalyst for change. .”

CNN has reached out to the Saudi Arabia Motorcycle Federation for comment.

A Formula 1 spokesperson told CNN the organization has worked hard to be “a positive force everywhere it races, including in economic, social and cultural interests.”

“We take our rights responsibilities very seriously and set high ethical standards for our partners and those in our supply chain, which are spelled out in our contracts, and we pay close attention to compliance. their defenders,” added the spokesman.

In a September interview with CNN’s Amanda Davies, Prince Khalid Bin Sultan Al Faisal, president of the Saudi Automobile and Motorcycle Federation (SAMF), said he was not concerned that politics could be overshadowing the country’s inaugural F1 event.

“Formula one […] wise enough to know what is good for them and their reputation, and if they felt Saudi Arabia was one of those countries, they would never agree to come,” he said.

“We want people to go to Saudi Arabia and then see [with] their eyes and then they can have their opinion. I respect someone’s opinion, but I need to know what’s based on it and what’s the motivation,” he added.

He said: “Saudi Arabia has changed a lot in a positive way. And hopefully, we will also continue to grow, open up and change our country to what’s best for the people who live in it. live in Saudi Arabia”.

Amanda Davies and Sana Noor Haq contributed reporting.

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