ADDED ON: 12/05/2021

Lewis Hamilton condemns ‘terrifying’ LGBTQ+ laws before Saudi Arabian GP

12/2/21 | The Guardian

Lewis Hamilton has said he is not comfortable competing in Saudi Arabia given its repressive laws regarding the LGBTQ+ community. Speaking before this weekend’s grand prix in Jeddah, Hamilton described the laws as “terrifying” and once more called on Formula One to do more to address human rights issues in the countries it visits. On Wednesday a range of human rights groups wrote to F1, accusing the sport of being complicit in Saudi Arabia’s sportswashing by competing in the country. They highlighted women’s rights activists who risk imprisonment for their actions, with Human Rights Watch citing “Saudi Arabia’s brutal crackdown on peaceful dissidents”. Amnesty International called on drivers to speak out, drawing attention to the plight of Saudi LGBTQ+ people who live in a country where same-sex relations are illegal and punishable by flogging or imprisonment. F1 has attracted considerable criticism for racing in Saudi Arabia and Hamilton, who has been a strident supporter of equality and diversity, admitted he did not feel at ease with the regime. “Do I feel comfortable here? I wouldn’t say I do,” he said. “But it’s not my choice to be here, the sport has taken the choice to be here.” Hamilton goes into the meeting, the first to be held in Saudi Arabia, in a tightly fought battle with Red Bull’s Max Verstappen who leads the championship by eight points with two rounds remaining. Yet much as the world champion is focused on this nail-biting finish, Hamilton, as he has been in the past, was also insistent that he would play a part in trying to make a difference. “Whilst we are here it’s important we do try to raise awareness,” he said. “In the last race you saw the [rainbow] helmet that I wore. I will wear that again here and in the next race [in Abu Dhabi] because it is an issue. If anyone wants to take time to read what the law is for the LGBT+ community, it is pretty terrifying. There are changes that need to be made.”

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