September 29, 2022

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Lewis Hamilton calls for changes in Saudi Arabia as Formula 1 heads to country for second race

Lewis Hamilton has his say on Saudi Arabia human rights issues weeks after a mass execution in the country; “It’s not necessarily our responsibility that we’re brought here but we try and do what we can.”; watch Saudi Arabian GP live on Sky Sports F1 this weekend

Last Updated: 25/03/22 1:35pm


Lewis Hamilton has called for changes in Saudi Arabia

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.

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.

Lewis Hamilton is hoping Mercedes will show improvements in Saudi Arabia as he bids to mount a title challenge once again this season

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Lewis Hamilton is hoping Mercedes will show improvements in Saudi Arabia as he bids to mount a title challenge once again this season

Lewis Hamilton is hoping Mercedes will show improvements in Saudi Arabia as he bids to mount a title challenge once again this season

“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.”

Hamilton 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

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Simon Lazenby is joined by Johnny Herbert and Paul Di Resta to look ahead to the Saudi Arabian GP

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.

Anthony Davidson takes a look at the differences between the 2021 and 2022 Jeddah track layouts ahead of the Saudi Arabian GP

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Anthony Davidson takes a look at the differences between the 2021 and 2022 Jeddah track layouts ahead of the Saudi Arabian GP

Anthony Davidson takes a look at the differences between the 2021 and 2022 Jeddah track layouts ahead of the Saudi Arabian GP

Hamilton ‘open’ to speaking to those in authority

Hamilton was also asked whether he would be willing to go “a step further” in trying to create change by meeting those in authority.

While Hamilton said “it shouldn’t be our responsibility to have to do that”, he claimed he was “open” to doing so.

It is, naturally, a very very complex situation,” he said. “But I’m always open to having a discussion to learning more, to try to understand exactly why the kind of things that are happening here are happening, why are they not changing. Because it’s 2022 – it’s easy to make changes.

“I’m open to doing it. I don’t know who I’d have to speak to, exactly.

“I know that Boris [Johnson, UK Prime Minister] has been over here recently. I’m aware that human rights was raised but I’ve not heard what was said, or what’s being done.”