Domenicali says F1 will be a positive force in Qatar amid human rights concerns

2021 F1 season

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Formula 1 CEO Stefano Domenicali says the sport’s presence in Qatar will be a force for good, amid concerns over the country’s human rights record.

The Middle East state is the latest in a series of additions to the F1 calendar which have prompted criticism due to its government’s treatment of certain groups.

These include migrant workers from countries such as India, Pakistan and other countries, over 6,500 of which are believed to have died in a 10-year period. Many of these were linked to projects relating to the 2022 FIFA World Cup, leading to protests in support of human rights by footballers including players from Germany’s national team.

Qatari women are not granted equal rights to men and are discriminated against in many aspects of the law. Same-sex relationships are punishable by imprisonment and the death penalty can be applied for acts of infidelity.

F1 drivers have become increasingly outspoken on human rights matters in recent years. Lewis Hamilton has described it as a “massive problem” in some countries the sport visits and met with Britain’s ambassador to Bahrain to discuss the matter earlier this year.

Domenicali says the attention F1 brings will promote progress in countries it visits such as Qatar and Saudi Arabia, another new addition to this year’s calendar.

“We are talking about sport, we are talking about a platform that has the objective of creating fun and unify[ing] people,” he told Sky. “And I think that this is always the case.

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“Sport will help and to enhance the positivity and the right values on each country we are going [to]. Because the spotlight of F1 is so big that you cannot hide.

“Therefore, I think that it’s a sign of making sure that the things that everyone at this level are promising, they will be delivered, because on that we know that we cannot hide anything.

“This is the reason why that we should take that as a great positive push versus a better world. Because Formula 1, in this specific case, will help to make sure this transition versus a better world will happen sooner.”

The addition of Qatar to the 2021 F1 calendar was announced last week. Domenicali praised the introduction of the new event at Losail International Circuit in place of the Australian Grand Prix, which was cancelled due to the pandemic.

“It’s another great achievement for all of us because we wanted, despite the Covid, despite the difficult situation we’re living in, to show that we are totally committed to make sure that this season – that is absolutely fantastic from the sporting perspective – can really have the right venues and the right quantity of races.

“I have to say that we need to thank Qatar’s promoters because as soon there was a chance to have the possibility to have that slot, they were able to [become] immediately available for discussion. So it’s really terrific. And that’s great because we can really have a 22-race calendar. That is something that is not given for granted. So I’m very excited.”

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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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44 comments on “Domenicali says F1 will be a positive force in Qatar amid human rights concerns”

  1. I can’t say I agree with any of that.

    1. @depailler I agree


      I guess saying one thing for PR clicks in countries where it popular and standing behind what you say are two very different and distinct things for the American company Liberty Media.
      Essentially #WeRaceAsOne and what it stands for is totally illegal in Qatar and enforced with long prison sentences. Which Liberty doesn’t deem to oppose to. Their action speaks louder than words.
      Liberty is loudly proving money trumps human rights and really does not stand behind what they say.

      What part of #WeRaceAsOne and doing business with Qatar work together? More and more Domenicali has become more of a mouth piece for John C. Malone & Liberty Media and is losing his credibility.
      Personally I don’t think John C. Malone or Liberty Media give a rats azz about any of this, I think they’re trying to make long term deals with whomever they can so it will add value to F1’s value when trying to sell it. I don’t think Liberty Media is trying to hold onto F1 and would rather flip it to anyone for the right price.

      Doing a long term deal with men/govt. that send people to jail who #WeRaceAsOne is trying to defend and speak up for is a total slap in the face to those people and total hypocrisy by Liberty Media.

    2. F1 hasn’t been much of a force for good in dealing with social justice issues in the USA or the UK so yeah you are probably right…

    3. I agree with your disagreement. History is rife with examples of sportswashing by authoritarian regimes to gain legitimacy but few, if any, examples exist of the opposite happening and sports events or concerts bringing about positive change in those countries with authoritarian regimes.

      The whole reason these regimes allow these events to occur is because they have a firm enough grasp on their country to prevent the type of changes Domenicali is suggesting will occur. They seek them out because they are using F1 to try legitimize their country. If Domenicali truly believes that F1 will be a positive force (I suspect he doesn’t) it’s ridiculous and completely narcissistic to think F1 would change the outlook of a regime.

      As the old saying goes, when you dance with the devil, the devil doesn’t change. You change.

  2. Avoidant tripe from Domenicali. He knows they’re there because the cash was given.
    If they genuinely wished to press for changes in the appalling human rights record they could have refused to go there and made that public. Saudi Arabia too along with Bahrain.
    That statement is a disgrace and shame on Sky for swallowing it without rebuke.

  3. GtisBetter (@)
    4th October 2021, 18:40

    Lol, no it won’t. Stop lying.

    1. @passingisoverrated

      I wish they’d stop all this and just go racing, put on a show. Stop this ridiculous virtue signalling. I actually preferred it under Bernie in some regards, at least he was honest that all he (well and the whole sport by and large) was interested in was….money…and you know what? Good on him for that. Ultimately, business professionals who make it to the very top only care about money, because you know, thats their job, to make money.

      1. What virtue signaling? F1 has embraced no virtues to signal when it comes to human rights. It’s anything goes! Next up – Pyongyang street circuit sponsored by Saudi Aramco! All attendees receive a complementary human bone. Secure yours today!

  4. “Sport will help and to enhance the positivity and the right values on each country we are going [to]. Because the spotlight of F1 is so big that you cannot hide.

    Probably in essence… But sports these days (I don’t think we should explain it to them) is not about the values of competition, physical health, entertainment, camaraderie, or whatever. It’s business. It’s just a signature on a paper for Domenicalli, and the cash register noises start. Whether that money comes from drugs, oil, cotton candy, violence, is not his problem…

    I rather have him say “this isn’t our problem” than use that horribly long list of lies and excuses…

    1. Quite @fer-no65, I doubt this will impress anyone who wasn’t a believer already, or paid to pretend to it.

  5. Well Stefano. Explain to me how F1 is going to improve women’s rights in Qatar. How will F1 aid in the fight against human trafficking? Feel free to elaborate what FOM will do to bring about this positive change in Qatar.

    Go ahead, I will wait.

    1. Yeah, now we really should expect F1 to bring a well defined action plan with them with clear targets, deadlines and steps defined to reach those goals, right? Right? @sjaakfoo.

      Which is how it should be, but I doubt anyone not completely naive won’t expect more than at best some sound bites in an interview or something like that. I’ll just be happily surprised if we get anything meaningfull, given how likely it is we won’t.

  6. Stefano may be right, just look at the great improvements in human rights that have occured in China, Singapore, Turkey, Azerbijan, since F1 has been racing there. ;)

    1. @tambeau Or indeed the USA or the UK? Pretty sure things like BLM and statues getting thrown into Bristol’s waterways shows that even these countries aren’t squeaky clean on the social justice scale…

      1. Bit unsure if you agree or disagree with my point.

        F1 hasn’t changed human rights for the better in the countries they race in, but they have made the countries look “normal” and legitimate.

        If you are equating throwing an inanimate object into a harbour with re-education centres, death sentences for homosexuality or apostasy, seperate legal systems and rules for different sexes, then you must have a severe problem understanding scale.

        Even the best countries have crime and inequality, but these failings aren’t written into the law books and actively supported by the government.

        1. @tambeau What I was disagreeing with is the stance that yourself and many other people take that it is ok to go places like the UK, the USA, Hungary etc. etc. etc. despite them having massive social justice issues of their own (and let’s not forget all those wars they start), which let’s not lie are huge issues the world is grappling with right now, but it isn’t ok to go to the Middle East. There isn’t a single country on the calendar with a spotless human rights record.

          P.S. Chucking “an inanimate object in a harbour” was due to frustration with systemic racism, not just because people were critiqueing the sculptor’s craft.

          1. @geemac I fully understand the politics behind the statue of a respected slave trader being thrown in the water, on that I think we do agree.

            But everything in life operates on a sliding scale, shoplifting and illegal parking are wrong, but they don’t incur the same penalty as rape or murder. The world isn’t just black/white, yes/no, right/wrong, you can’t seriously equate human rights in the UK or USA, with those of Saudi Arabia or Qatar.

            As for being involved in wars, those two countries are tearing Yemen apart and causing a massive humanitarian crisis, but I agree it doesn’t excuse other countries starting wars.

            If you truly believe that there are no differences between how the “west” and how Saudi Arabia, Qatar, China etc treat people in their countries then I can only conclude you are just trolling for the fun of it, or share these countries values.

          2. By the way, don’t mention Oatar or $audi Aradia as your comment will fall into the well of moderation, only to appear 3 days later, once everyone else has moved past the discussion.

          3. @tambeau that isn’t how the moderation queue works, neither Qatar or Saudi are words that fall into the filter – very occasionally it scoops comments it shouldn’t (I’ve never quite understood why it does this) but it’s generally because the post contains a different word. Sometimes it’s pretty innocuous; there are a few words that include a swear word – especially if someone typos something.

            It’s human-moderated (frequently by me) so has some time delay based on when a human can read it.

          4. @tambeau I’m not trolling, I’m up for a healthy debate on a difficult topic which I think we are having.

            What I am against however is F1 social media rhetoric of “Middle East = Bad” while it happily glosses over the wrongdoing of “the West” because the West dominates the sport and always has done.

  7. With all due respect, Domenicali and F1 are just gas lighting us, they add countries or maintain relationships with governments that have atrocious human rights records. The ‘We Race as One’ statement is just a tag line, what a joke. With F1 it is just about the money. They need to stop lying. Hope that fans will boycott the problematic countries.

    1. I did when Bahrain was first added to the calendar and I stopped following F1 until 2016. This is not the way. I’m not missing out again. I was gad I watched Russia this year despite my initial plan to skip watching it. I think a better strategy is to be mindful of the terrible abuses in these places and have conversations with people about it. Remind people during the China GP that the country is engaged in genocide among other human rights atrocities.

  8. Domenicalli is now a deranged lunatic with zero connection to the world and only sees success as monetary no matter the human cost. I’d be ashamed being to be a stakeholder.

  9. Agree with you @fer-no65, stop telling this empty lies and say you’re there for the money.
    But as long as we all keep watching, it will not change.
    I have decided to not watch the Qatar GP. (and yes there are other dubious countries on the calendar, but we have to start somewhere…)

    1. @ricod Literally F1’s & Liberty Media’s biggest poster logo, ad campaign and motto #WeRaceAsOne is heavily voiced at every F1 race, it’s on every F1 car, it’s on TV and banners flown all over the place, it can’t be missed but at the same time they still take their business with the exact same people who will arrest, convict and deliver long prison sentences to the exact people that the F1 logo and motto has been trying to promote and saying should have equal rights.

      @fer-no65 So much for them believing in #WeRaceAsOne motto that they spent so much time trying to convince fans they believe in it. They’ve mis-lead fans, saying one thing and then doing another. Liberty Media is coming across as not good people.

      @sjaakfoo agree with you; What part of doing business with the Qatar govt for the next 10yrs and #WeRaceAsOne makes sense?

      1. @redpill , maybe you misunderstood me. I totally agree with you, the WeRaceAsOne is a farce when you race in countries like Qatar. LM (and FIA) are in it just for the money. WRAO is just a marketing gimmick.

        1. @ricod Sorry, I didn’t mean to imply that you didn’t and was agreeing with you and was including you in my reply since your the orig. post to this thread.

          I know I’ve been ranting on a bit in these threads about this subject but it has been disheartening that Liberty Media has been making a mockery out of something that could’ve helped society since it has such a large audience, it was their chance to do some good but then completely discredited themselves, killing the good of it being as a speaker and symbol of equal human rights. But they just couldn’t resist the $$$$ and showed where their authenticity, corrupt ethics, morals and scruples really lie.

          I’m also worried what they’ll do next to F1 as it’s suppose to be the pinnacle of what motorsport. As they recently proved, they don’t keep their word. F1 = aka…Blue Star Airlines/Anacott Steel and Domenicali is Bud Fox

  10. I don’t see any casual link between F1 and human rights. F1 is a sport not a special interest group pushing a political agenda.

    1. It could be argued that the money and interest directly (and indirectly) generated by hosting an F1 event enriches both the coffers and the global status of the hosting country. That is more than a casual link if the hosting country engages in human rights abuses, as F1 is one of the biggest sporting events in the world. F1 may not say that they condone these regimes, but actions (how money is spent) speak much louder than words.

    2. It seems you’ve missed the banning of the grid girls, the knee bending and other stuff, or are those non political?

  11. What a croc. F1 is solely about taking in the most money for investors and it’s only because of drivers like Hamilton that these issues even come up at all (when they should be constantly).

  12. “You are very funny man Mr Domeniciali” – In my best Borat impersonation.

  13. I find it interesting that all sporting bodies refused to sanction events in South Africa during the apartheid years to apply pressure on that country to bring about change rather than to be seen to be endorsing its policies and human rights record. Any sport that actually did arrange a tour there was treated as a pariah.

    Skip forward to the current era and now its “a force for good” where World Cups, Tennis, Cricket, F1 etc. head off to wherever the money is whilst trying to tell us that their attendance in those countries will help bring about change.

    In reality the only thing that has changed is the vast sums of money that host countries are prepared to pay.

    1. If apartheid era South Africa had oil and gas reserves like Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Azerbaijan etc, then it would probably still be in power, despite the horrendous human rights abuses.

      As you say the big difference now is the money. The involvement of big multinational companies, whether as team owners, sponsors, or suppliers, is where the fault lies. These bodies exist primarily to make money for their shareholders, this isn’t bad in itself, but it does lead to turning a blind eye, or even being complicit in human rights abuses.

      Even if the CEO or board of a company makes improving human rights, the environment, or any other cause a goal, it will only happen if they make money. When these countries wield so much cash and power over resources, they can almost dictate what happens with companies they deal with.

      The only solution is what happened in the 1980’s with South Africa, but on a larger scale. Shareholders and governments being forced to change priorities, due to financial pressures from customers, ie us boycotting their products.

      1. @tambeau , exactly! So we should do like we did in the eighties, boycot the Qatar GP.

        1. And boycott the Saudi GP too.

        2. @ricod I did boycott the Qatar GP in the eighties :) But seriously I am old enough and did boycott the South African GP, although back then it only meant missing a half hour replay program at 11pm.

          But the important part is boycotting the sponsors etc and making them know why you are boycotting them.

  14. Sounds similar to what WWE said when they signed their 10 year PPV deal with Saudi Arabia.

  15. Honestly. How stupid does he think we are?

  16. Sure Stefano

  17. Liberty and its supporters can continue this blatant hypocrisy in the knowledge that a lot of people will not get it, or even fall for it. It’s the way of the world.

  18. I know F1 has had a colourful history of team owners and sponsors, but gifting countries that actively carry out acts of state run terrorism an event like an F1 GP?

    Formula 1 CEO Stefano Domenicali says the sport’s presence in Qatar will be a force for good, amid concerns over the country’s human rights record.

    This person Domenicali…unbelievable.

    Bernie started the ball rolling and was wrong to get Russia and China on board and Liberty are just as wrong to let Saudi Arabia, Qatar in.
    But yeah money money money and Liberty have shown they are little different than Bernie and CVC.

  19. trite nonsense. they say the same thing every time.

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