Lewis Hamilton says F1 must recognize human rights issues in host countries

F1 Grand Prix of Bahrain - Previews
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Formula One champion Lewis Hamilton on Thursday urged the global racing series to not ignore human rights violations in the countries where it stages races, an issue that is once again a topic ahead of the season-opening Bahrain Grand Prix.

Bahrain, which has held F1 races since 2004, has been accused of exploiting the series to gloss over, or “sportswash,” its human rights record – by using a high-profile sporting event to project a favorable image of the country. The F1 calendar this year also includes races in Azerbaijan and Saudi Arabia, who have been accused of using sports in a similar way.

“I don’t think that we should be going to these countries and ignoring what is happening in those places, arriving, having a great time and then leave,” Hamilton said Thursday, ahead of Sunday’s Bahrain GP. “Human rights, I don’t think, should be a political issue. We all deserve equal rights.”

After last year’s Bahrain GP, the seven-time world champion said he hoped to speak directly with Bahrain’s Crown Prince Salman bin Hamad Al Khalifa on the subject of the Persian Gulf State’s human rights record.

Asked during Thursday’s news conference if he had managed to speak with the crown prince, Hamilton said:

“At the moment I think the steps that I’ve taken really have been in private, and I think that’s the right way to go about it. So I don’t really want to say too much that may jeopardize any progress.”

But, Hamilton added, “I’m definitely committed to helping any way I can.”

DRIVING DIVERSITY: Lewis Hamilton focused on trying to win eighth championship

Before last year’s Bahrain GP in November, the British driver received three letters from alleged torture survivors containing harrowing descriptions of the extreme beatings and sexual abuse they endured.

“(Those letters) weighed quite heavily on me, it was the first time I’d received letters like that along my travels. So, for the last few months I’ve taken time to try and educate myself,” Hamilton, 36, said Thursday.

Hamilton took the knee at every race last year to fight against racism and says he will do so again this season.

“I think what’s really important is that young children are watching what we’re doing, and when they see us take the knee, they will sit and ask their parents or their teachers: `What are they taking the knee for?”‘ Hamilton said. “It sparks an uncomfortable conversation (and) it means parents have to educate themselves, and the kids are getting educated.”

Lewis Hamilton arrives in the paddock for the Bahrain Formula One Grand Prix at the Sakhir circuit in Manama (GIUSEPPE CACACE/AFP via Getty Images).

But Hamilton acknowledged that he had to learn much more about Bahrain.

“Because coming here all these years, I wasn’t aware of all of the human rights issues,” he said. “I (have) spent time speaking to legal human rights experts, speaking to human rights organizations like Amnesty (International). I’ve seen the UK ambassador here in Bahrain, and I’ve spoken to Bahrain officials.”

One of the letters sent to Hamilton last November was from Mohammed Ramadhan, who is on death row. After supporting Bahrain’s pro-democracy uprising, he was allegedly framed in a murder case and beaten with iron bars to extract his confession.

Ramadhan’s 11-year-old son Ahmed reached out personally to Hamilton, drawing a picture of his F1 Mercedes car and sending it to him last December, along with a personal written plea: “Lewis, Please save my father.”

Mother-of-four Najah Yusuf also wrote to Hamilton, detailing abuses she’d suffered at the hands of officers from Bahrain’s National Security Agency.

The other letter writer, Ali AlHajee, remains imprisoned in Jau Prison – which is located not far from Sakhir’s F1 track – after organizing pro-democracy protests.

“These claims are both misleading and untrue. The cases cited have absolutely no connection with F1,” the Bahraini government’s National Communication Centre said in an email to The Associated Press. “The government of Bahrain has a zero-tolerance policy towards mistreatment of any kind and has put in place internationally recognized human rights safeguards. Any complaints are fully investigated and action taken where any evidence of mistreatment is found.”

On Wednesday, the Bahrain Institute for Rights and Democracy (BIRD) sent new F1 chief executive Stefano Domenicali an open letter co-signed by 61 British lawmakers and 24 rights groups. They asked him to ensure F1 establishes an independent inquiry into abuses linked to the race, and to meet with victims and rights groups to secure compensation.

“We have engaged in detail with BIRD and parliamentarians in recent years and have raised the matters discussed,” Domenicali wrote in his response, which BIRD shared with the AP. “However, it is important to make clear that Formula 1 is not a cross-border investigatory organisation. … Unlike governments and other bodies, we are not able to undertake the actions you request, and it would not be appropriate for us to pretend we can. ”

BIRD also sent a letter to German driver Sebastian Vettel, asking him to carry a message of solidarity with Bahraini political prisoners on his Aston Martin helmet at Sunday’s race. At last season’s Turkish GP, the four-time F1 champion had a message of diversity and inclusion on his race helmet.

“Your helmet (at the Turkish GP) bore the slogans `Together as One’ and ‘No borders, just horizons – only freedom,” BIRD wrote to Vettel via his team. “Yet for many in Bahrain, freedom remains a distant dream.”

Supercross 2023: Results and points after Seattle


The final results from the Monster Energy Supercross race in Seattle suggests the season is turning into a two-rider battle as Eli Tomac scored his sixth win of the season to tie Cooper Webb for the points’ lead and Chase Sexton crashed in yet another race.

Tomac downplayed the neck strain that caused him to lose the red plate for two weeks, but without that holding him back, it would appear it might have been a bigger problem than he admitted. Despite finishing on the podium in Detroit, Tomac has not shown the late-race strength everyone has come to expect. He was in a slump after scoring a season-worst in Indianapolis and described his sixth win as a “bounce back”.

With this win, Tomac tied James Stewart for second on the all-time list with 50 career Supercross victories. Six rounds remain and there is no sign that Tomac is slowing down. Jeremy McGrath’s 72 wins remains untouchable, for the moment at least.

RESULTS: Click here for full 450 Overall Results; Click here for 250 Overall Results

Cooper Webb was disappointed with second-place, but he recognized the Supercross results at Seattle could have been much worse. He rode in fifth for the first nine laps of the race, behind Tomac and Sexton. When Sexton crashed from the lead and Tomac took the top spot, Webb knew he could not afford to give up that many points and so he dug deep and found enough points to share the red plate when the series returns in two weeks in Glendale, Arizona for a Triple Crown event.

Justin Barcia scored his third podium of the season, breaking out of a threeway tie of riders who have not been the presumed favorites to win the championship. Barcia scored the podium without drama or controversy. It was his fourth consecutive top-five and his 10th straight finish of eighth or better.

Click here for 450 Heat 1 | Heat 2 | Last Chance Qualifier | Lap Chart

Jason Anderson kept his perfect record of top-10s alive with a fourth-place finish. Tied for fourth in the standings and 49 out of the lead, his season has been like a death of a thousand cuts. He’s ridden exceptionally well, but the Big Three have simply been better.

Sexton rebounded from his fall to finish fifth. He entered the race 17 points out of the lead and lost another five in Seattle. Mistakes have cost Sexton 22 points in the last three races and that is precisely how far he is behind Tomac and Webb. Unless those two riders bobble, this deficit cannot overcome.

The rider who ties Anderson for fourth in the points, Ken Roczen finished just outside the top five in sixth after he battled for a podium position early in the race.

Click here for 450 Overall results | Rider Points | Manufacturer Points

The 250 West riders got back in action after four rounds of sitting on the sideline and Jett Lawrence picked up where he left of: in Victory Lane. Lawrence now has four wins and a second-place finish in five rounds. One simply doesn’t get close to perfection than that.

Between them, the Lawrence brothers have won all but two races though 11 rounds. Jett failed to win the Anaheim Triple Crown and Hunter Lawrence failed to win the Arlington Triple Crown format in the 250 East division. In two weeks, the series has their final Triple Crown race in Glendale. When he was reminded of this from the top of the Seattle podium, Jett replied, “oof”.

Click here for 250 Heat 1 | Heat 2 | Last Chance Qualifier | Lap Chart

RJ Hampshire finished second in the race and is second in the points. This is fourth time in five rounds that Hampshire finished second to Lawrence. If not for a crash-induced 11th-place finish in the Arlington Triple Crown, he would be much closer in the points standings. With that poor showing, he is 23 points behind Lawrence.

Cameron McAdoo made a lot of noise in his heat. Riding aggressively beside Larwence, the two crashed in the preliminary. McAdoo could never seem to get away from Hampshire in the Main and as the two battled, the leader got away. It would have been interesting to see how they would have raced head-to-head when points were on the line.

Click here for 250 Overall results | 250 West Rider Points | 250 Combined Rider Points

The Supercross results in Seattle were kind to a couple of riders on the cusp of the top five. Enzo Lopes scored his second top-five and fourth top-10 of the season after crossing the finish line fourth in Seattle.

Tying his best finish of the season for the third time, Max Vohland kept his perfect record of top-10s alive. Vohland is seventh in the points.

2023 Results

Round 11: Eli Tomac bounces back with sixth win
Round 10: Chace Sexton wins, penalized
Round 9: Ken Roczen wins
Round 8: Eli Tomac wins 7th Daytona
Round 7: Cooper Webb wins second race
Race 6: Eli Tomac, Jett Lawrence win
Race 5: Webb, Hunter Lawrence win
Race 4: Tomac, H Lawrence win
Race 3: Chase Sexton, Levi Kitchen win
Race 2: Tomac, J Lawrence win
Round 1: Tomac, J Lawrence win

2023 SuperMotocross Power Rankings

Week 10: Chase Sexton leads with consistency
Week 8: Chase Sexton unseats Eli Tomac
Week 7: Jason Anderson narrowly trails Tomac
Week 6: Perfect Oakland night keeps Tomac first
Week 5: Cooper Webb, Sexton close gap
Week 4: Tomac retakes lead
Week 3: Ken Roczen takes the top spot
Week 2: Roczen moves up; Sexton falls
Week 1: Tomac tops 450s; Jett Lawrence 250s