- Saudi Arabia is hosting its first Formula One Grand Prix this weekend.
- Seven-time Formula One champion Lewis Hamilton said he was uncomfortable racing there.
- Hamilton said he disapproved of the country’s human rights record.
Lewis Hamilton, a seven-time Formula One world champion, said he’s not comfortable racing in Saudi Arabia this week, Reuters reported.
“Do I feel comfortable here? I wouldn’t say that I do,” Hamilton told reporters on Thursday. “But it’s not my choice to be here. The sport has taken the choice to be here.”
Hamilton said he feels “duty bound” to help raise awareness for human rights abuses, ESPN reported.
Saudi Arabia is hosting its first F1 race in Jeddah from December 3 to December 5 and human rights groups have accused the country of using the sport to mask its human rights abuses and reputation, CNN reported.
Hamilton said the country’s laws against same-sex marriage need to change. He said he plans to wear a helmet featuring the Pride Progress Flag during his race. He wore the helmet – which features a redesigned version of the traditional Pride flag, including a chevron of stripes representing the progress that still must still be made for trans people and marginalized people of color – during a race last month in Qatar, CNN reported.
—F1 Helmets (@F1HLM) December 2, 2021
“I will wear that again here again and the next race [in Abu Dhabi], because that’s an issue,” Hamilton said. “And the law, if anyone wants to take the time to read what the law is for the LGBTQ+ community, it’s pretty terrifying. There’s changes that need to be made.”
ESPN reported that Prince Khalid bin Sultan al-Faisal, the President of Saudi Arabia’s Automobile and Motorcycle Federation, said he respects Hamilton’s views.
In July, al-Faisal told reporters he would be happy to meet with Hamilton to discuss the country’s human rights record, the Middle East Eye reported.
“We are confident about our progress [on human rights] and where we are going so we have no issues. It is very important to us, not just Formula One, but our Kingdom and the people who live in Saudi Arabia,” al-Faisal said at the time.
Last month, the fiancée of the murdered Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi called on Justin Bieber to cancel his scheduled concert at the event.
Hatice Cengiz told Bieber he had the opportunity to send a message against the Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman.
Insider has reached out to Formula One for comment.