Lewis Hamilton encouraged to take a stand as MPs accuse F1 of ‘sportswashing’
Lewis Hamilton has been told to boycott Formula One races if the sport does not improve its human rights image.
The new F1 season starts in Bahrain on Sunday before heading to Saudi Arabia for the second round of a 23-race campaign.
Both countries have been criticised for their human rights record, with F1 and its governing body, the FIA, accused of “sportswashing”.
Hamilton, 38, has been vocal in calling on F1 to do more to address the issue, and Lord Scriven – vice chairman of the All-Party Parliamentary Group on Democracy and Human Rights in the Gulf – said the British driver would be within his rights not to compete.
He said: “Lewis and others would be correct to say that unless F1 and the FIA put in place a framework which is in line with the United Nations’ guiding principle on business and human rights, that he and other drivers would feel uncomfortable about racing. And unless that framework is put in place they would seek not to race.
“They could increase pressure, both in terms of highlighting the topic, but also getting the dinosaurs of managers and administrators of their sport to actually put in place the correct framework so there is a systematic legal approach to how F1 and the FIA decide where to race.”
Lord Scriven’s signature featured alongside eight members of parliament – including the former Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn – in an open letter sent to F1 boss Stefano Domenicali and FIA president Mohammed ben Sulayem on Tuesday.
On my way to an event to highlight that @F1 leaders should be following some drivers' actions in speaking out against human rights abuses in countries they race in. Not just following the money and allowing rulers in places like Bahrain to use the race as a sportswashing event pic.twitter.com/8acNWaFZVk
— Paul Scriven🔶️🇺🇦 (@Paulscriven) February 28, 2023
In the letter, F1 and the FIA are accused of “ongoing sportswashing”, and a “refusal to engage with key stakeholders, including human rights groups”.
They have been urged to commission an “independent and impartial inquiry to assess the implications of F1 races in human rights violations”, and to use their “leverage” to call for political prisoners in Bahrain to be “immediately and unconditionally released”.
Scriven added: “History will judge the administrators and managers of F1, and it will judge them badly if they continue on taking the fork in the road that believes their sport is divorced from any form of moral imperative.
“Human rights and F1 can go side-by-side, and it is a pity that the present leadership of the F1 and FIA seem to think that money, profit and their own self importance is far more important than giving dignity and basic human rights to people in the country with which they make profit from.”
F1 announced last year that Bahrain will remain on the calendar until 2036, while a 10-year deal is in place to race in Saudi Arabia.
Domenicali recently said that F1 can tear up a race contract “if we see something that is not going in the right direction”.
An F1 spokesperson said: “For decades Formula One has worked hard to be a positive force everywhere it races, including (providing) economic, social, and cultural benefits.
“Sports like Formula One are uniquely positioned to cross borders and cultures to bring countries and communities together to share the passion and excitement of incredible competition and achievement.
“We take our responsibilities very seriously and have made our position on human rights and other issues clear to all our partners and host countries who commit to respect human rights in the way their events are hosted and delivered.”
An FIA spokesperson said: “At the pinnacle of motor sport, F1 events take place across a huge spectrum of different countries and cultures around the world.
Race week – let’s go!! 👏 pic.twitter.com/XssMmSXPS8
— George Russell (@GeorgeRussell63) February 27, 2023
“It is our belief that the most fundamental goal of motor sport, and all sport, is founded on the desire to increase our common ground and cultivate the principles of cooperation and commonality between people.
“The FIA, as is the case with other international sporting federations, cannot interfere in the internal affairs of a sovereign state.
“This independence from the affairs of states, as underlined by the International Olympic Committee, does not mean however that we are insensitive to any potential hardships endured by the people concerned.
“The FIA will continue to work on projects that bring positive benefits to the wider society, acting always within its scope as the regulator of world motor sport.”