Lewis Hamilton wore a helmet emblazoned with a rainbow, a symbol for the LGBTQ rights movement, and the slogan 'we stand together' has he prepares for the inaugural Qatar Grand Prix this weekend amid criticism of the country's human rights record.
The Formula One world champion called for more to be done by those who can raise awareness of human rights violations ahead of Sunday’s first-ever F1 race in Doha.
Homosexuality is illegal in Qatar and is punishable with a jail sentence of up to seven years and the risk of the death penalty.
The country has also been condemned for its treatment of migrant workers. More than 6,500 migrant workers from India, Pakistan, Nepal, Bangladesh and Sri Lanka have died in Qatar since it won the right to host the World Cup in 2022.
Qatar’s government has passed a series of laws since 2017 aimed at improving conditions for migrant workers, but a new Amnesty International report says it is failing to effectively implement them.
Asked about racing for the first time in a country with such a dubious human rights record, Hamilton said he wished "more sportsmen and women spoke out on these issues".“One person can only make a small difference but together, collectively, we can have a bigger impact,” he said.
He continued: "It is (about) education, it takes time to go out and learn more about a region that is foreign to us, we are not from these areas.
“It is incredibly complex on the ground in these places with religion and a lot of other complexities to even understand them all.
“What is important is that we still try and bring awareness to some of these problems. It is never enough, more needs to be done.
“I know that as a sport, and I have been, to a lot of these countries and been ignorant and unconscious of some of the problems there have been in some of the places and it is down to whether you educate yourself and hold the sport more accountable and if the sport is doing enough when we go these these places.
“That is why I have tried to raise my voice but there are far brighter people in the background but I still think we can bring a spotlight and brighten the scrutiny that could create change.”
Hamilton also said Formula One – and any sport travelling to such regions, with the next stop on the 2021 calendar taking in a first trip to Saudi Arabia – are “duty-bound” to do their bit.
“Ultimately us as drivers it is not our choice where we go and race,” he added.
“I do feel that we are aware that there are issues in the places we are going to, as there are all over the world. It is deemed as one of the worst in this part of the world, I do think when sports go to these places they are duty-bound to raise the issues and these places need scrutiny, it needs the media to speak about these things, equal rights is a huge issue.
“I’m aware in this place they are trying to make steps and it can’t change overnight, still there is a long way to go. I just feel that If we are coming to these places we do need to be raising the profile of the situation.”
A first race in the Arabian country has once again brought the
The World Cup will take place here next year, with the opening match kicking off exactly a year to the day from Sunday’s F1 race.
England confirmed their place at the World Cup with a 10-0 win over San Marino on Monday night, with defender Conor Coady insisting “the conversation will be had” among the players as to how they can do their part to shine a light on such issues.