BAKU, Azerbaijan — Seven-time Formula One champion Lewis Hamilton directed criticism at the French Open in calling Thursday for more support for young athletes dealing with media duties after four-time Grand Slam champion tennis player Naomi Osaka withdrew from the French Open citing her mental health.
Osaka withdrew from the tournament on Monday after she was fined for refusing to attend the typical post-match news conference following her first-round victory. The Japanese player said on social media that she faced “huge waves of anxiety before I speak to the world’s media.”
Speaking ahead of the Azerbaijan Grand Prix, Hamilton was critical of the French Open organizers.
“The way they reacted was not good with the fine and someone talking about their personal mental health and then being fined for it, that wasn’t cool. I think they could have definitely handled it better, I’m sure. I hope they will take a deep dive into it and find a better way to navigate in the future,” Hamilton said.
Hamilton, who also had posted a tweet about Osaka’s battle with depression, said he had felt overwhelmed by media obligations around the time he joined F1 in 2007 when he was 22.
“When I was young, I was thrown into the pit and I wasn’t given any guidance or support. And what I do know is that, you know, when youngsters are coming in, they’re facing the same thing as I did. And I don’t necessarily know if that’s the best for them,” Hamilton said. “I think we need to be supporting more and I think it shouldn’t be a case where you’re pressured.
“For example, with Naomi’s scenario, she didn’t feel comfortable for her own personal health not to do something. And the backlash is ridiculous.”
Mental health is not a joke, this is real and serious. This takes a lot of courage to do. Let's all make sure Naomi knows she's not alone. Today is a good day to check and ask your friends and loved ones how they are doing and let them know they are not alone. https://t.co/2ytC6k1hHd
— Lewis Hamilton (@LewisHamilton) June 1, 2021
After a week off, Formula One will return Friday with Azerbaijan Grand Prix practice and qualifying Saturday. Hamilton has fallen to second in the points standings after finishing seventh in Monaco behind winner Max Verstappen.