Lewis Hamilton vows to fight to improve human rights

Hamilton improve human rights
Mark Thompson/Getty Images
1 Comment

World champion Lewis Hamilton vowed not to ignore pleas to improve human rights in Bahrain and other countries where Formula One hosts races, after reading letters from alleged torture survivors and being sent a drawing from the young son of a Bahraini man on death row.

Hamilton received personally addressed letters from three alleged torture victims in Bahrain ahead of a race there two weeks ago, and has since read them.

“I think there’s definitely work to be done in the background and I definitely won’t let it go unnoticed,” the seven-time F1 champion said on Saturday.

Included with the letters to Hamilton was a photo of 11-year-old Ahmed, who is proudly holding up his drawing of Hamilton’s Mercedes F1 car. The drawing, which was sent by email to The Associated Press, came with the boy’s personal written plea: “Lewis, Please save my father.”

“When I was drawing the car I thought that it could save my father,” the boy said. “We struggle every day without him, I really hope he comes back to us.”

He is the son of Mohammed Ramadhan, who in his letter to Hamilton said he was arrested after supporting Bahrain’s pro-democracy uprising and then allegedly framed in a murder case and beaten with iron bars in order to extract his confession. He is facing execution.

“I think the saddest thing for me was that there’s a young man on death row and it’s not clear … and when his son writes me a letter it really hits home. All lives matter,” Hamilton said from the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix. “When I get some time now, I will definitely try and speak to (people) and see how I can positively impact that (F1) weekend as a sport moving forwards.”

Hamilton said he wanted to address the human rights issue with Bahrain’s Crown Prince Salman bin Hamad Al Khalifa last week in Bahrain – the second of two races to be held there – but had to sit out that race after contracting the novel coronavirus (COVID-19).

“I’d hoped after the first race to have had time to sit and address it with the Crown Prince, but I was bedridden for most of the week and I wasn’t able to see anybody,” Hamilton said. “Now, look, ultimately it isn’t necessarily my responsibility to speak up on the places that I don’t know everything about. But I think that, we together, always have to work to push for change, for improvements.”

Mohammed Ramadhan’s wife and mother-of-three Zainab Ebrahim said she has been deeply traumatized.

“This year has been the most heart-wrenching with the realization that Mohammed’s death sentence would not be overturned. Living with that reality every day and having to tell my children that their father was never coming home has broken me,” Ebrahim said. “My husband is an innocent man, He has done nothing wrong. It is time for this nightmare to end and he is set free to return to those who love him.”

Ebrahim and her son’s comments were sent to the AP by Sayed Ahmed Alwadaei, the Director of the London-based Bahrain Institute for Rights and Democracy.

“When world champions like Lewis Hamilton speak out, lives can change forever,” Alwadaei told The AP. “F1 has a responsibility to support Lewis in speaking out.”

When Hamilton initially received the letters, he was also copied in on an NGO letter sent to F1 chairman Chase Carey listing alleged abuses in the Persian Gulf island since 2011.

MORE: Lewis Hamilton joins Black Lives Matter march in London; creates diversity panel

“The human rights issue in so many of the places we go to is a massive problem,” Hamilton said in response at the time, pledging to read the letters he’d been given. “I do think as a sport we need to do more … not just saying that we’re going to do something.”

More than a dozen rights groups co-signed a letter endorsed by Amnesty International to Carey, urging F1 to leverage compensation for victims and ensure people can protest without reprisals.

Hamilton improve human rights
Chase Carey, CEO and Executive Chairman of the Formula One Group, Lewis Hamilton and Max Verstappen talk on the grid prior to the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix. Hamilton continues to show support for human rights with his commitment to the Black Lives Matter movement. (Photo by Hamad I Mohammed/Getty Images)

Bahrain is accused of exploiting F1 to gloss over, or “Sportswash” its human rights record, by using a high-profile sporting event to project a favorable image of their country. Another letter sent to Carey, co-signed by 30 British cross-party parliamentarians, asked F1 to implement its human rights policy at the Bahrain GP amid concerns about rights violations linked to the race.

“I don’t think we have a massive problem,” Carey said in an interview with CNN earlier this month. “I think the world could use a few more places where you try and create good through encouragement and positive reinforcement, as opposed to boycotting or protesting.”

Carey’s comments were strongly disputed by mother-of-four Najah Yusuf, one of three who wrote to Hamilton along with Ali AlHajee, a man who is in Jau Prison after organizing pro-democracy protests.

The three survivors’ letters, initially reported by The Guardian newspaper and obtained by The AP, contain harrowing descriptions of extreme beatings, torture and sexual abuse.

The AP has asked Bahrain’s National Communication Centre and the Bahrain Embassy in Britain to comment on the accusations.

“The government of Bahrain takes the protection of its citizens’ human rights and freedom of expression extremely seriously, and this is explicitly protected by Bahrain’s constitution,” the center said in a statement on Nov. 27.

MORE: Hamilton sends message of support to struggling fans after winning his seventh F1 title

Cadillac confirms WEC driver lineup with Chip Ganassi Racing that will race Le Mans in 2023

Cadillac Ganassi Le Mans
Cadillac Racing
0 Comments

Cadillac and Chip Ganassi Racing announced their driver lineup for a 2023 entry in the FIA World Endurance Championship, the sports car series that includes the 24 Hours of Le Mans.

The Cadillac V-LMDh entry will be driven by Earl Bamber and Alex Lynn, who were teamed on the No. 02 Cadillac that competed in the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship DPi class this season and won the Twelve Hours of Sebring. The third driver will be Richard Westbrook, who will return to Ganassi after helping the team to a GT class win at Le Mans in 2018.

The team also will compete in the Rolex 24 at Daytona in the rebranded Grand Touring Prototype premier category, which is designed for crossover between the top prototypes in IMSA and WEC. Ganassi will field a second entry at Daytona with its No. 01 Cadillac that will compete full time in IMSA with Sebastien Bourdais and Renger van der Zande.

A Ganassi spokesman said the team hopes to run its second entry in the 2023 24 Hours of Le Mans but only its WEC team is confirmed (an AOC invitation would be required for the IMSA team). The team also is exploring options but currently plans to have the WEC’s team base of operations in Indianapolis.

Ganassi is the first American-based prototype team to confirm its entry in the 2023 24 Hours of Le Mans. It’s expected that Team Penske, which raced this year’s Le Mans with a full-time WEC entry in LMP2, also will race Le Mans with Porsche’s new LMDh car that is set for IMSA, but the manufacturer has yet to confirm its driver and team lineup.

Next year will mark the return of Cadillac to Le Mans for the first time since 2002.

Before joining Ganassi last year, Lynn made 28 WEC starts since 2016, winning the LMGTE Pro class at Le Mans in 2020.

“I’m absolutely thrilled to continue with Cadillac and Chip Ganassi Racing,” Lynn said in a release. “It’s a huge honor to drive for Chip in any capacity but certainly on a full factory sports car program, it’s seriously cool. Cadillac has so much heritage as a luxury North American sports car brand, so to be able to represent them is a huge privilege. I’ve had a lot of fun in my first year doing it and to continue that onto the World Endurance Championship stage is fantastic.

“For me, returning to WEC is sort of what I’ve always known and it’s a bit like going into my wheelhouse. This year in IMSA was a bit different with getting to know all-new circuits and a new style of racing so 2023 will be filled with a bit more of what I’m used to with more of a European focus. I think what’s significant about WEC is without a doubt Le Mans. As a sports car race, Le Mans is the crown jewel and everything that we want to win. To be able to take Chip Ganassi Racing and Cadillac back to Le Mans to fight for overall honors is a huge honor and that’s something that I’m going to work tirelessly to make sure we achieve.”

Bamber won the Le Mans overall in 2015 and ’17 with Porsche teams and also was a 2019 GTLM champion in IMSA.

“I am really happy to continue at Chip Ganassi Racing and Cadillac,” Bamber said in a release. “I’ve loved my first season in DPi and now to continue over into the LMDh era and WEC is super exciting. Looking forward to fighting for a world championship and another Le Mans victory.

“The World Endurance Championships gives us the opportunity to race at the world’s biggest race, which is Le Mans, the crown jewel of sports car racing. I’ve been lucky enough to win it before and it’s obviously a huge goal for Cadillac and everyone at Chip Ganassi Racing. To have that goal in sight is really exciting. It’s been great to have Alex as a teammate in 2022. We’ve been able to learn and grow together in the DPi, and we have a really good partnership going into WEC. We know each other really well and believe adding Richard will be a seamless transition.”

Said Westbrook: “After four really good years at Chip Ganassi Racing, I’ve got so many friends there and I’ve always dreamt to come back one day. It just worked so well between 2016 and 2019, and I’m delighted we found a route to come together again. I can’t wait, it’s an exciting era in sports car racing right now.

“I feel like I know Alex and Earl really well. I did Le Mans with Alex in 2020 and I’ve known him for years. It feels like I’m going back with an ex-teammate and exactly the same with Earl. Although I’ve never shared a car with Earl, we’ve always done the same sort of racing be it in WEC or in IMSA. We’ve had lots of battles, including this year in our dueling Cadillacs. We’ve always gotten along quite well, and I can say we’re going to have a great year together.”

The seven-race WEC season, which also includes a stop at Spa, will begin March 17 with the 1,000 Miles of Sebring at Sebring International Raceway in Florida.