Formula One racer Daniel Ricciardo has been criticised after admitting his “ignorance” amid backlash over Saudi Arabia’s LGBT+ and human rights record.
Saudi Arabia hosted its first-ever Grand Prix on Sunday (5 December), with winner Lewis Hamilton using the occasion to highlight the fact that LGBT+ people are criminalised in the country for simply existing.
However, McLaren racer Ricciardo has faced fierce backlash after telling reporters he is “ignorant” on such matters as he does not watch the news.
The 32-year-old Australian was asked how important it is that drivers use their platforms to discuss the human rights abuses riddling Saudi Arabia, LGBT+ rights included.
The country has one of the worst LGBT+ rights records in the world, with the absolute monarchy freely permitting the killing, torture, imprisonment and chemical castration of LGBT+ people. The nation’s security agency, the Presidency of State Security, has even dubbed homosexuality, feminism and atheism all forms of “extremism“.
Ricciardo said in an interview: “I think it’s important if you know the situation and you know what you’re talking about.
“To be honest, I don’t watch the news and some people say it’s a bit ignorant but I choose not to watch it because… a lot of the time, people like drama and negativity.
“I don’t watch the news and feel better about my day so I choose not to watch it.
“I try to understand a little bit of the situation of places we go… it’s not in my nature to really understand a lot about this and maybe I am a bit ignorant.”
He added that when he arrived in Saudi Arabia on Saturday for the Grand Prix, he was met by fans who had a mixed response.
Watch: Formula 1 Driver Daniel Ricciardo Breaks Down Racing Movies
Some fans he spoke to said it was their “dream that F1 comes here” while others said it was “a little bit interesting”.
“Anywhere we go, if we bring some joy to a nation, a place, to a city – then that at the very least is positive,” Ricciardo added. “If we can have this effect, I think it’s a good outcome.”
F1 fans slam ‘privileged’ Daniel Ricciardo for calling human rights abuses ‘drama’
Jeddah, a port city in the kingdom, hosted the Saudi Arabian Grand Prix with the Formula One final set for Abu Dhabi.
Hamilton clinched victory wearing a Pride flag helmet in a stunning show of solidarity with LGBT+ Saudis, whose very existence is illegal under the Islamic Sharia.
Hamilton, 36, repeatedly spoke out against the nation’s treatment of LGBT+ people – something which many fans wish Ricciardo had done, too.
A dedicated Daniel Ricciardo Instagram fan page with more than 13,000 followers slammed the driver, calling him “privileged” for not making an effort.
“Imagine travelling the world for a living and refusing to learn anything about the places you go,” it said in a post.
Criticism continued on Twitter. “This is an absolutely disgusting answer from @DanielRicciardo,” tweeted one user. “So much for being an ally – or even a decent person – at this point. Horrendous.”
Many users agreed, with some calling his “ignorance” a result of privilege.
This is disappointing from Daniel – love him as a driver and personality but needs to do better to understand how people in his position can help drive change. Claiming ignorance not good enough. https://t.co/3y5bP14XF9
— Markus Schmitz (@Marki_MSMS) December 4, 2021
It's in your nature to be a privileged, ignorant brat though https://t.co/3tPRVCD4Um
— Clodagh's Smashed Teapots (@sympathy_simm) December 5, 2021
PinkNews contacted Daniel Ricciardo for comment.