Formula 1 CEO Stefano Domenicali says the sport will be recognised in the future for the role it has played in encouraging countries such as Qatar to make “progress”.
Both countries have been criticised for their poor records on human rights which include strict legislation targeting women and members of their LGBTQ+ communities.
Domenicali said F1 has “no reason to hide” when it visits such countries. “As soon as these countries choose to be under the spotlight that Formula 1 is bringing, there’s no excuse,” he told Sky.
Countries such as Qatar “have taken the route of a change”, Domenicali believes, which F1 can help promote. “As always in life you cannot pretend that millennial cultural habits can be changed from day to night. It will be illogic and not rational.
“But I think that through Formula 1, through sport, they will have the intensity to make sure that the progress will be done in a faster time, in a faster way, that normally we would take to do these changes. And that’s why we are here with no fear and then to make sure that things are done in a proper way.”
F1 has been criticised for allowing countries with poor records on human rights to ‘sportswash’ their reputations by holding major events. But Domenicali expects the series will eventually be praised for engaging with countries like Qatar.
“I do believe that in a couple of years, in the future, someone will recognise the important role that Formula 1 have given to this important change of our society,” he said.
Before the race weekend began Lewis Hamilton said sports which visit countries like Qatar are “duty bound” to raise awareness of the human rights situations in those places. He is wearing a special helmet with a ‘Progress Pride’ design this weekend.
Domenicali is happy for drivers to use the sport to promote their views in this way. “As you know we are a platform where the drivers can say what they believe is right in the respect of the others, always,” he said.
“Therefore, on that, there is nothing new that we are adding because that’s a very current message that through ‘We Race As One’ we talk about diversity, we talk about sustainability, we talk about inclusivity or inclusion. And that’s why I would say that is really caught up with this approach, but always respectful of everyone.”
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