Hamilton and Vettel downplay Ben Sulayem comments and say they will keep “speaking out”

2022 Azerbaijan Grand Prix

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Lewis Hamilton suggested Mohammed Ben Sulayem may have been misinterpreted in comments made by the FIA president regarding the champion’s promotion of human rights.

Hamilton and fellow Formula 1 world champion Sebastian Vettel, who was also mentioned by Ben Sulayem in the recent interview, said they intend to continue using their status to promote causes they are passionate about.

Ben Sulayem recently compared the pair to former drivers Niki Lauda and Alain Prost, who he said “only cared about driving.”

“Now, Vettel drives a rainbow bicycle, Lewis [Hamilton] is passionate about human rights and Norris addresses mental health,” Ben Sulayem continued.

“Everybody has the right to think. To me, it is about deciding whether we should impose our believes [sic] in something over the sport all the time.”

The FIA president issued a statement yesterday stressing that “promoting sustainability, diversity and inclusion is a key priority of my mandate.”

Hamilton said he had not seen the interview and was wary of taking it at face value.

“I only heard about it this morning,” he said. “I’ve not read it so I don’t really know all that has been said.

“I’m also aware that sometimes things I’ve said have been taken out of context so that maybe has happened. But I heard that he clarified things on social media, which is positive.”

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“That doesn’t stop us from doing what we’re doing,” Hamilton added. “The sport is continuously growing. We have a bigger audience than ever before, I think it’s gone up by nine percent this year or something.

Change is “moving at a very slow pace” – Hamilton
“It continues to be an important platform to use our voices, every single one of us here, within the industry, within our companies, to do more, to speak out more on things, to spark more conversations.”

His Mercedes team have added graphics showing their support for LGBTQ+ inclusion at this weekend’s Azerbaijan Grand Prix.

“I’m really proud of what we’re doing at Mercedes with our pride star on the car, which is the first time I’ve seen that during my time at Mercedes which is amazing,” said Hamilton. “It just shows that we have over 100,000 people within Mercedes-Benz and creating a more inclusive environment is so important and focussing on creating better diversity within the organisation.”

Improving diversity is “also so important within the sport”, Hamilton added. “It’s moving at a very slow pace and we need more people to utilise their platform.

“So I encourage all the drivers to be more outspoken in future and speak about things we care about.”

Hamilton said he is “proud to see what Seb does to be an ally” to under-represented groups. Vettel also said he intends to continue advocating diversity and inclusion.

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“I don’t think there’s much point going into what has been said, but I think what I would like to say is that the topics that Lewis is continuing to raise, the issues Lando has been talking about and stuff that I’ve been mentioning, I feel they are topics that are very important to be addressed and they are bigger than us, bigger than the sport can ever be.

Pierre Gasly, AlphaTauri, Baku City Circuit, 2022
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“So I think it is important to mention those, to express those and to raise awareness, to make people aware that there still lots of things that we can improve on.”

Asked whether he had confidence in Ben Sulayem, who took over from Jean Todt as FIA president in December, Hamilton said: “We have to have confidence that we’ll continue to make progress.

“I think it’s about collaboration. I generally think that a good job has been done so far, I think we’ll get better.

“Particularly, we are trying to work with the FIA and I think for Mohammed I think it’s a huge role, big shoes to fill, and we just need to give him time. There’s lots that he wants to do and lots of things that he wants to change. So I believe from what he’s told us that he will do it.”

2022 Azerbaijan 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...
Claire Cottingham
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25 comments on “Hamilton and Vettel downplay Ben Sulayem comments and say they will keep “speaking out””

  1. Friendly reminder Mr Ben Sulayem. . .Enzo, Senna, Hunt and all the teams boycotted or threatened to boycott the South African Grand Prix. You can never stop people from voicing their views on human rights and other atrocities happening around the world because it is important to do so. This just shows me the low regard FIA has for drivers, Drivers are like any other human being, their lives are affected by these things, they have feelings about them. Some people shy away from voicing them because they are either sheltered from them and have never experienced them, but even if they know something is wrong, they keep quiet just to avoid being political. . .Being a superstar gives one a big voice to affect change, good positive change.

  2. His Mercedes team have added graphics showing their support for LGBTQ+ inclusion at this weekend’s Azerbaijan Grand Prix

    Mercedes Middle East Twitter account (just like the rest of the manufacturers) is not showing support to the LGBTQ+ inclusion while the pride colours are present on their logos in the other accounts.

    The woke people/corporates don’t actually care about the LGBTQ community, they are just taking advantage from showing their fake support because it’s a popular wave to ride nowadays.

    I’m talking about Mercedes as corporate in this case not Hamilton or Vettel.

    1. @tifoso1989 Of course. Corporate performative wokeness is extremely damaging in the long run to human rights activism.

      1. @wsrgo
        Absolutely !

    2. I’m glad I’m not the only one that can actually see it for how it really is.

      Companies ‘sharing support’ during pride month is nothing more than a marketing strategy in western countries where LGBTQ+ community is already acknowledge. If these companies truly cared about sharing their support as they so openly claim to in their press releases, they would use their brand platform to raise awareness globally. But they don’t, because that would likely affect sales in countries where the LGBTQ+ community isn’t accepted or is even outlawed.

      Ultimately money is all that matters to these corporations.

      1. @jdc123
        It is almost impossible nowadays to have a proper debate about diversity. You cannot talk about diversity without the risk of having someone blown at your face and eventually trying to get you cancelled. The woke corporates taking advantage of riding the diversity wave will cancel anyone who dares to expose them.

  3. Very depressing to read his original statement. Basically “shut up and drive”. So we’ll keep going to horrific places like Saudi Arabia, hell maybe North Korea some day, and their excuse is basically “well we don’t want to impose our beliefs on anyone”. Some people’s beliefs are very much in the wrong and need to be challenged, not shrugged at and acquiesced to.

    I’m with Hamilton, Vettel and others. Show us your personality, show us what you care about, you’re not just a body in a helmet driving a car.

    1. Well said.

    2. Comment of the Day material here.

    3. Exactly, and when you think about it, all Lewis and Seb are saying is “everyone deserves respect” and “we should probably look after the planet on which we all rely”. Pretty uncontroversial sentiments really.

  4. Bin Sulayem is not a particularly intelligent person, is he! He represents a culture that is thankfully rapidly disappearing. He is blind to the changes happening in the world his views are an anachronism and he like the dinosaurs will soon enough disappear.

    1. I would not be so sure. As this kind of culture disappear in one corner of the planet it always tend to rear its ugly head somewhere else. Have you been following what is going on in the US ? These dinosaurs do not disappear, they relocate. Keep your guards up.

  5. Little wonder they want impose ‘heavy manners’ on Hamilton…. Where this, don’t wear that…

  6. To paraphrase Mr Sulayem… “stop talking about other things and just drive the cars like we tell you to”.

    A very diplomatic response from Lewis in particular.

    I think Mr Sulayem should instead focus on making the FIA function more effectively to facilitate exciting and fair racing all around the world, for EVERYONE to enjoy. If a driver chooses to use their high profile as a platform for raising awareness to various society issues, it has no bearing on the actual racing. Personally I have far more respect for a person that uses their position of influence for good, and I feel the world would be a much better place if we had more people like Seb, Lewis and Lando in it.

  7. The Dolphins
    10th June 2022, 14:40

    Single-term FIA President.

  8. Funny how many people are offended by rainbows.

    btw: If Mohammed Ben Sulayem doesn’t want anyone “to impose believes in something over the sport all the time”, maybe UAE and others could stop using rose water for the award ceremonies? Because that would have surely offended Lauda and Prost!

  9. I actually agree with Ben. Shut up and drive. I ertainly don’t take life advice from F1 drivers.

    1. @drone

      Then don’t?
      You don’t have to listen to them, but they have a right to speak out…

      What silly, ignorant person thinks “driving” is the only thing a person has the right to do?

      1. I think Ben Sulayem’s inference is that the drivers are perfectly free to do, say and be whatever they want within their own media space – but F1 is not theirs to hijack.
        When using F1’s media space, they should be following F1’s media mandates and guidelines. Which, as stated, are inclusive of everyone, not just the selected ones these drivers choose to focus on.

    2. @drone And yet here you are giving your opinion on the matter. Everyone has the right to express their opinions, famous or unknown, even you. Hopefully no one is looking up to you for “life advice” either.

  10. Cut to the chase Ben.
    Tell us what we are allowed to think and say …. then we can all tell you you to F off.

  11. So glad Seb is speaking up for Friday’s. They need publicity, what with the shocking “13th” bigotry that is rife. Good on you Seb, onto the next cause..

  12. There are a lot of people who have problems with what the president of the FIA thinks. However, he was elected, if I am not misinformed, by a large majority. What if the main problem is not him?

    1. @esmiz Ah yes, how quaint, elected. Just a shame that the autocratic country from which he comes doesn’t allow elections. Or indeed homosexuality, which is illegal in the UAE and punishable by death under Sharia law.

      1. But what can he do about it, @david-br.
        Probably about as much as you or I can.

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