Lewis Hamilton defends Naomi Osaka’s stance, criticizes French Open organizers

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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.”

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.

NEOM McLaren Formula E announces Jake Hughes will join Rene Rast for 2023 season

McLaren Formula E Hughes
McLaren Racing
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Doubling down on their commitment to electric auto sports, McLaren Racing announced Jake Hughes will join Rene Rast to compete in the 2023 Formula E Series (FE), which completes their driver lineup.

The NEOM McLaren FE team was formed by the acquisition of the Mercedes-EQ Formula E team that won the 2021 and 2022 championships with Stoffel Vandoorne and Nyck de Vries behind the wheel.

“Today’s announcement feels like a long time coming,” said Ian James, managing director of NEOM McLaren Electric Racing in a release. “Since May this year, when we first announced McLaren Racing’s entry into Formula E, we have been working tirelessly to get in place the best possible team and structure for sustainable success.

“On the one hand, we have been working on the retention of the amazing talent that already was in place before going into the transitional phase. I’m proud to say I think we’ve done a great job on that front.

“On the other hand, we have been focusing on putting in place new processes and new talent – and the latter includes the drivers.”

The driver lineup clasps the two hands together.

Hughes brings 10 years racing experience in single seater cars, including a role with the acquired Mercedes-EQ team as a reserve and development driver for the past two seasons. He is the 2013 BRDC Formula 4 champion and has multiple wins in Formula 2, including two in 2020.

Announced in August, Rast joins the team after earning two podium finishes and six top-fives in 22 career Formula E starts for Audi Sport ABT before returning to the DTM Series last year. Rast’s best finish in Formula E came in the Puebla E Prix when he finished second to teammate Lucas di Grassi by less than a half second.

McLaren’s commitment to Formula E comes one year after they entered the Extreme E rally series in 2022 with Tanner Foust and Emma Gilmour in the driver lineup. After a modest start to the season, the McLaren XE drivers crossed the finish line first in Round 4 in Chile, but were assessed a time penalty that dropped them to fifth. Last week in the season finale in Uruguay, they held onto a hard-earned second place finish.