Hamilton raised human rights concerns with Bahraini officials and UK ambassador

2021 Bahrain Grand Prix

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Lewis Hamilton met with Britain’s ambassador to Bahrain to discuss concerns over the human rights situation in the country.

Last year the Formula 1 world champion received letters from a group of human rights organisations claiming the Bahrain Grand Prix is linked to human rights abuses in the country, including torture and sexual assault.

Hamilton said the letters “weighed quite heavily on me” when he read them. “It’s the first time I received letters like that along my travels.”

He has discussed the human rights situation in Bahrain with several relevant parties, including Britain’s ambassador to the Middle Eastern nation, Roderick Drummond.

“I’ve taken, for the last few months, time to try and educate myself because coming here all these years, I wasn’t aware of all the detail of the human rights issues.

Start, Bahrain Grand Prix, 2020
UK MPs have concerns over human rights abuses linked to race

“So I spent time speaking to legal human rights experts, have spent time speaking to human rights organisations like Amnesty, have seen the UK ambassador here in Bahrain and I’ve spoken to Bahrain officials also.”

He declined to comment on the outcome of the discussions. “At the moment the steps that I’ve taken really have been in private and I think that’s the right way to go about it. I don’t really want to say too much that may jeopardise any progress. That’s the position we’re in now. But I’m definitely committed to helping in any way I can.”

A group of British members of parliament has written to F1 figures including Hamilton and the championship’s CEO Stefano Domenicali, urging the sport to investigate any connection between the race and human rights abuses. The race was omitted from the F1 calendar 10 years ago following the suppression of pro-democracy demonstrations.

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Asked how F1 should respond to the accusations, Hamilton said “it’s not in my power to choose where we go and race.

Lewis Hamilton, Mercedes, Bahrain International Circuit, 2021
Hamilton said he remains “fully committed” to F1

“But just reflecting again back on the powerful position that we are in, in terms of the responsibility, human rights, I don’t think, should be a political issue. We all deserve equal rights.

“In terms of whether it’s Formula 1’s responsibility, I don’t know if that’s for me to say. But as I said, I’m taking steps and understanding.

“As a sport we do go to a lot of different places and we visit lots of different, beautiful countries and cultures. And naturally there’s issues all around the world. But I don’t think that we should be going to these countries and just ignoring what is happening in those places and arriving, having a great time and then leave.”

Hamilton is heading into his 15th season as a F1 driver having only signed a one-year extension on his Mercedes contract. But he downplayed concerns he could leave the sport at the end of the year, describing his pride for the steps F1 has taken to address social issues through its ‘WeRaceAsOne’ initiative, and insisting his preference for a short-term deal “has nothing to do with whether we are or we’re not winning a championship”.

“I don’t quit when the going gets tough,” continued Hamilton, who wants to begin negotiations with team principal Toto Wolff on his next contract earlier in the year than previously.

“I wanted a one-year deal. I said to Toto it would be good, if we are to work on the future together, [that] we should talk about it much earlier than January, just before season testing starts.

“I’m fully committed to this sport. The sport is in, I think, the best place it’s been in terms of the steps we are taking. I’m really proud of what F1 is is doing in terms of acknowledging that they have a great platform to work towards a better world.

“And I love what I’m doing. I’ve arrived more excited, I think, than I have in a long time. I just said to Bono [Peter Bonnington, his race engineer], just excited to get going. We’re going to have a real great battle one way or another. And that’s what I’ve always loved.”

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2021 Bahrain Grand Prix

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Keith Collantine
Lifelong motor sport fan Keith set up RaceFans in 2005 - when it was originally called F1 Fanatic. Having previously worked as a motoring...

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60 comments on “Hamilton raised human rights concerns with Bahraini officials and UK ambassador”

  1. I have an idea. Wear a T-shirt on the podium with some hard hitting message like some of the abusers should be arrested for example. Surely not a big ask or out of order.

    If that’s not worth the cause, at least stop showing respect by showing up in their national dress: https://www.mirror.co.uk/3am/lewis-hamilton-wears-traditional-bahraini-7684451

    1. Hehehehe . Hilarious. Keep fighting the good fight Balue 🏆🏆🏆🏆🏆🏆🏆

      1. @Dean: not as hilarious as Lewis sitting down with the ambassadors, etc. …. I hope Nicole did all the talking for the two of them.

    2. Would that not be classed as cultural appropriation??

    3. lol the vitriol is seething.

    4. The usual crowd totally against the T-shirt messaging idea I see. ‘Educating oneself’ is the way to go for them on this topic, while it was A-Ok on other more ‘pressing’ matters. By some coincidence exactly what Hamilton is doing, who would’ve thought..

      I guess football teams wearing T-shirts with human rights messages in Qatar World Cup qualifiers now are just going about it the completely wrong way. Some commenters here even saying things like this type of action could actually hurt the people oppressed, so they should obviously have learned from Hamilton who is doing it the perfect way (again) and just ‘educated’ themselves. https://www.msn.com/en-gb/news/other/germany-follow-norway-by-protesting-qatars-human-rights-record/ar-BB1eYvde

  2. Surely if he cared that much he wouldn’t be racing in Bahrain?

    It’s difficult to gauge mr Hamilton’s principles as they change too often. From what I gather these alleged ‘abuses’ are tolerable because he spoke to someone about it.

    Reply moderated
    1. Agreed Jim , however I’ve been in bah for the past 3 years and I haven’t seen anything that he speaks about . Show me a country that doesn’t have any different opinions , this country is a kingdom the royal is here since hundred of years. There’re lot of Europeans Asians living here no issues at all so safe in this tiny island . How can he disgrace a country who’s welcoming him so warmly ?! Shame on him !

      Reply moderated
      1. 👍🏼He’s misinformed, the parties reaching out to him are questionable and have their own political agendas

        Reply moderated
      2. Have you been to the poor villages where the most affected live? Police cars block all access to some of these villages, they’re literally kettled inside, tear gassed. Anyone caught outside will be dragged to jail under a bogus charge in some military kangaroo court

        Reply moderated
  3. Lewis’s attitude annoys me a little, his political correctness is vanilla flavor, if you really want to protest, you must take action, not only with a sad face in the photos at the time of the ceremony before each race, you must take a serious stance, do you run the grand prix in countries where human rights are not respected? …yes or no.

    Lewis: But no, of course, my protest has a limit, and that limit is me.

    1. I agree that his proclaimed position to Bahrain GP is a bit weird and in fact in two separate ways. Firstly, as you say he stops somewhere at the half-way point – surely the Bahrainis & the British ambassador had a nice time chatting with him, but that was it for them. Secondly, Sir Lewis is stepping on the unstable ground by making the case with, forgive me to say, “lightweight” abuser of human rights in comparison to few other countries that are destined to hold Grand Prix – above all namely China. What will be his response once he is asked by the human rights groups (and he is bound to after this revelation – likely publicly to provoke some response) to address the situation in those countries?

      Recently, China has responded aggressively to every criticism or even questioning over possible the human right abuses in their country, so even a “friendly appeal” to the ambassador & Chinese officials could escalate into something larger which is something F1 and all major sponsors and companies invested in F1 will try to avoid at all costs.

      1. This is an interesting take there Kotrba

        Secondly, Sir Lewis is stepping on the unstable ground by making the case with, forgive me to say, “lightweight” abuser of human rights in comparison to few other countries that are destined to hold Grand Prix – above all namely China

        I think it is actually a big difference between F1 in Bahrain and F1 in China. For the Bahreini F1 is a relatively huge event and seems to matter directly to those in power. That means that a Hamilton, and F1 CAN have some meaningfull influence if it goes ahead to push the regime.

        That is a big contrast with China, where surely the government is happy to have this highly visible event, but with all the things going on, it is not really all that big of a thing. Otherwise they would have found a way to make the race go ahead last year. That they did not do that, or even try hard shows, that F1 would not even be a partner for them to talk with any somewhat influentual politicians.

        To me this actually shows that he really does mean it when he talks about wanting to change things. I rember how in recent years he was called a hypocrite for not calling out Bahrain. What did he do? Well, he talked with people who understand what the issues are, and took the opportunity as this highly visible figure, newly lorded as well, to officially adress the matter with the UK ambassador and with Bahraini officials.
        Sure, we can hardly expect this alone to make much difference, but it is at least a real effort by Lewis.

        1. You have a point about the importance assigned by the respective governments to the F1 venue and following that logic you may be right about the outcomes of LH or any other interventions to the matter.

          Though I would say, China was really unsure about the COVID situation last spring and they were keen not to re-import the virus back from abroad. Personally, I think that had significant impact on Chinese decision not to hold the race as well. Nowadays, China might have more incentives to go ahead with the race since it had lot of time to adapt and learn about the new situation. Plus China is, unfortunately, holding Olympics next year and they might use F1 event as a test case for their regulations and policies.

          Also being a LH fan, I do applaud him for raising issues like this in general – my concern here was with the proportionality & severity of the HR abuses in the respective countries and LH actions/non-actions being allowed or not tolerated by the Formula One, Mercedes corp. & other sponsors.

  4. Lewis, if you feel that strongly about it don’t race there. Pretty simple.

    1. Couldn’t agree more.

    2. Indeed. Sort of comes across as I care, but not THAT much.

      Reply moderated
    3. Wait ’til he gets a load of Saudi Arabia!

  5. Is Bahrain really that bad for human rights? I mean in the grand scale of things.

    Look at its neighbours, Saudi Arabia, Qatar, Iran… I don’t think Bahrain is doing that badly.

    And there are much worse countries on the calendar to come. Will Lewis be getting more letters.

    Or is it just easy to pick on Bahrain because it’s small

    1. As I mentioned above @napierrailton, I do think that the fact that F1 is a big event for this small country (with royals directly involved both in running the race AND their investment fund participating in a team like McLaren) is a factor. It means that a Lewis Hamilton relatively has far more leverage to actually make them feel some pressure compared to bigger countries like S.A. or say the likes of Russia or China, for example.

      The crackdown (and ongoing oppression of) opposition voices in Bahrain is still quite bad. And surely it is good when at least one place can change for the better. That in turn would also raise pressure on other countries in the region to change their tack.

  6. To all the naysayers (and I belong to them many times), this should be actually applauded. If Hamilton raised these concerns to official representatives, then it’s a bit more than just proclamations. Well done to him.

    1. Absolutely @pironitheprovocateur – there are too many people who just dislike Lewis Hamilton, he can do nothing right for them. I like the fact that he ignores them and keeps trying to do something rather than sitting back and whining about those that try.

    2. Exactly @pironitheprovocateur. He was critisized in the past for not adressing these issues.

      That he now took the effort to learn from people who know the issues (Amnesty etc.) and then used his position to actually adress it with officials in the country is the best answer to the cirtique. It shows that he really mean it when he talks about wanting to influence things for the better.

      1. Exactly. To me it seems that Lewis is not only raising issues but has also realised that it’s worth investing time and effort in learning as much as possible about how they are currently being addressed (or not) via diplomatic channels.

        To be honest, he may well have achieved far better results this way than he would have by just wearing a t-shirt at a race.

        Like many, I’ve not been much of a Lewis fan, but I certainly respect the way he’s maturing into this subject, as well as respect his skill on the track.

  7. When you have been asked by Human Rights groups to assist in attempts to convince the Bahraini authorities to spare the life of someone on death row, and you have sought advice from the relevant bodies, some see the obvious thing to do is ignore that advice and publicly attack, shame and embarrass those who hold the power of life and death over that individual.
    I mean; what could possibly go wrong?

    1. In many of these cases open and official attention actually does help, because it would worsen the PR backlash for completely ignoring this (at least in the next few weeks / months)

  8. Roth Man (@rdotquestionmark)
    25th March 2021, 20:13

    At least he’s saying/doing something about the situation. Must be very uncomfortable when it’s your sport/passion/job and you’re kind of stuck in the middle when it comes to where the races are held. Takes guts to at least speak out. And he has done it very diplomatically.

    1. Agreed.

      Wish he’d do more, but at least he is raising concerns.

      But next time/year it would be great if he did more.

  9. So, a British national complained to a British Ambassador about human rights abuses in Bahrain? Isn’t that just singing to the choir? He didn’t walk up to whichever member of the Bahrainian royal family that represents at the race and complain?? So, he is still racing there? The abuses must not be that bad then, right?

    1. @waptraveler, he actually mentions also having talked to Bahraini officials.

      That he also talks with the official representative of his own country to chip in for the UK to push for change makes huge sense. It also helps get access to the right people to talk to instead of just barging up to a random official and talking about this with them.

    2. @waptravele it is stated in the article that he did in fact raise the topic with Bahraini representatives – the meeting with the UK ambassador seems to have been a meeting for advice on how to raise this through the correct diplomatic channels.

      Reply moderated
  10. NeverElectric
    25th March 2021, 20:36

    He’s talking to the right people.
    He’s doing SOMETHING.
    Godspeed.

  11. He is finally backing his words. Kudos

    1. If he didn’t race, then he would back his words.

  12. Compare and contrast with Domenicali’s shameful response to the same letter. Only one of them is a leader.

  13. Really really happy to be this being brought up and discussed. Thank you, it’s the point of sportswashing when these issues get glossed over and nothing but a positive f1 race comes out of the weekend and associated with the location. It seemed as though it might have been missed this year with all the exciting lead up and that would have been a real shame.

  14. It looks like Hamilton might finally be doing something more than mere virtue signalling. If that continues, that’s good. It will increase my respect for him if he does something that actually leads to some change for the better.

  15. If we’re talking human rights, half the races on the grid would disappear. With the exception of Australia and Japan, you could argue the case for human rights abuses in pretty much every other non-European race destination on the calendar.

    As we say in Malaysia – “How now?”

    :)

    1. Take a look at Japans legal system if your looking for human rights abuses. The fact that Japan has no human rights institutions at all and no recourse for racial, ethnic or gender discrimination, could easily put it on a list of pariah states. Also, ask the indigenous peoples of Australia how their human rights have been respected for the last 200 years.

  16. Hamilton non-F1 article: cue BTL lessons in hypocritical values and virtue signalling from people who have no values or virtues. Kind of easy that way. The alt-right can be defined by this stance. Sneering from the sidelines when they cannot and will not ever do anything for anyone else ever.

    1. At the very least it’s being discussed.
      Good start.

      1. @didaho I agree, given his status and experience, not to mention his racing history in the country, initial dialogue was the right way to go.

    2. Ah again @david-br with the personal attack against anyone daring to criticize the glorious one. Virtueless racists one and all. Your post is reported.

      1. @balue How could you have possibly felt personally implicated by my generic criticism? Only if you recognize that it applies to yourself. And that’s down to you, not me.

        1. @david-br You don’t even have the balls to stand up for your personal attacks any more, but have to do it sneakily. Quite pitiful really.

          1. @balue Unhappy that your ‘courageous reporting’ didn’t work? I don’t think you have the psychological depth to understand how your own reaction to my comment implicates you: if you don’t self-identify as valueless and virtueless, it doesn’t apply.

          2. @david-br So pathetic. You couldn’t even make a single comment on point, and as usual all you could come up with was to attack the poster but you didn’t even have the guts to do it openly. And when even that cowardly attack is shown up, now you’re actually try to pretend it wasn’t in the most ridiculous way possible together with adding more insults.

            You should really stick to your promise and leave here. This is obviously not for you. It’s just getting worse.

          3. Hey @balue, you’re back to your weirdo stalking of me. I didn’t mention you because your comment was only tangental. You want it to be about you.

          4. You should really stick to your promise and leave here.

            Creep.

          5. @david-br Your usual double-talk. You’re the one stalking me, just like now. I can’t make a post about Hamilton before you’re all over me, and as always you turn it to be about me, not the topic. That’s your obsessive nature.

            I want you to leave as you promised you would do when you got censored during a particularly hissy fit, but you can’t, as you’re an obsessive stalker, in the same you obsess in your driver hero worshipping.

          6. @balue ?! A generic comment actually inspired by another post above, not yours. You felt implicated.

            I can’t make a post about Hamilton

            You mean you can’t see a story about Hamilton without obsessively attacking him. Not my issue. If I replied every time to the Hamilton-hating-obsessives, I really would have a problem. Various times I’ve tried to interact you on less hostile times, but you’re simply one-tracked. You seem to fail to realize that you project ‘Hamilton obsession’ onto me. And you don’t get to police who posts here or harass those who do with repeatedly telling them to go away. It’s stalking behaviour and the idea that a generic post is all about you is delusional. I suggest you get help with that.

          7. a particularly hissy fit

            Oh the irony.

          8. @david-br More banal doublespeak. I am here because of F1. You’re only here because of your obsession with a particular driver and those who criticize him. If anyone needs help it’s obviously you.

  17. hope for the whole field to raise their voice on this very matter, when Saudi Arabia comes

  18. Lewis, while youre at it, please can you speak to Sir Jim Ratcliffe about all the dirty carbon his company emits.

    Reply moderated
  19. Oh god, here we go again 🙄

    Lewis just stick to your day job mate.

  20. Australia-Human rights.
    Try telling that crock to the First Nation people of Australia.
    Discuss, talk all you want, with whom you want to,
    regarding Human rights in any of the Gulf states.
    Their version differs from the western world’s version.

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