Hamilton urged to speak out over F1 GP in 'sportswashing' Saudi Arabia
Human rights activists have written to seven-time Formula 1 world champion Lewis Hamilton urging the Briton to speak out against the motor racing series staging an event in Saudi Arabia later this year.
Saudi Arabia will make its debut as a Formula 1 host in November with a night race in Jeddah. A long-term deal has been penned between series owner Liberty Media and the Saudi Automobile and Motorcycle Federation.
Formula 1 joins other major sports such as soccer, golf and boxing in being attracted to oil-rich Saudi Arabia, but, like those, is facing criticism given the country’s human rights record.
Indeed, 45 groups ranging from foreign policy organisations to faith-based groups, have sent a letter to Hamilton, seen by GlobalData Sport, calling on him to speak out against the Saudi government's human rights abuses and boycott the Grand Prix.
The reigning world champion has been targeted because he is an outspoken 'Black Lives Matter' advocate and came out against Bahraini torture practices ahead of a Formula 1 race in the country last year.
The letter outlines specific concerns over the human rights abuses carried out by the government of Saudi Arabia, citing the Saudi-led war on Yemen, the treatment of women’s rights defenders and the brutal murder of journalist Jamal Khashoggi in the Saudi embassy in Istanbul.
The organisations accuse Saudi Arabia of 'sportswashing' - using the hosting of sporting events to distract from its poor human rights record.
Sunjeev Bery, executive director of Freedom Forward, wrote in the letter: “Saudi Arabia’s dictatorship is using sports and entertainment events in a desperate attempt to hide its horrifying human rights record from the world. As a voice for freedom, Lewis Hamilton should take a stand in support of the peaceful reformers and activists who are languishing in Saudi Arabia’s prisons. Hamilton should boycott the race until Saudi Arabia’s monarchy embraces reform.”
Danaka Katovich, the Yemen campaign coordinator for CodePink, added: “The most decorated Formula 1 driver in the history of the sport demanding freedom for activists and justice for Yemen would certainly speak volumes to the world. As organisations concerned deeply with the human rights abuses carried out by the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, we ask that you reconsider your participation in the upcoming race being hosted in Saudi Arabia in 2021.”
Meanwhile, Formula 1 team Ferrari has signed up luxury Swiss watchmaker Richard Mille and Spanish beer brand Estrella Gallicia 0,0 as sponsors for the 2021 season.
Richard Mille's branding will be displayed on the cars of drivers Carlos Sainz and Charles Leclerc, but the partnership will also extend to Ferrari’s additional motorsport activities as official timekeeper, sponsor of Competizioni GT and the Ferrari Challenge series, partner of Ferrari Driver Academy, technical partner of Ferrari Esports Series and FDA Esports Team.
Estrella Gallicia 0,0 becomes the official beer of the team. The brand has been a personal sponsor of Spaniard Sainz since 2013, following him from Toro Rosso to Renault to McLaren and now to Ferrari.
Elsewhere, Estrella Galicia 0,0 has renewed its sponsorship of Marc and Alex Márquez, the MotoGP motorcycling brothers.
The company has sponsored the pair for over a decade.