Lewis Hamilton has spoken out against Saudi Arabia’s anti-LGBT+ laws which he described as ‘terrifying’.
The Formula One star took pole for the country’s inaugural Grand Prix on Friday (December 3). But speaking to Sky Sports ahead of the historic race in Jeddah, the driver condemned the country’s homophobic laws which include the death penalty for acts of homosexuality.
“There’s prison time, death penalty and restrictions from people for being themselves, and I don’t believe in that,” Hamilton said. “Religions can change, rules can change, rulers can change those things. They have the power to.”
Hamilton also made note to emphasise he was not in the country by his own choice but rather because of his Formula One commitments.
“We don’t choose where we’re going, others have chosen for us to be here, so we have to apply the pressure on them to make sure that they are doing right by the people in those places, sparking conversations, creating that uncomfortable discussion that is needed in these places,” he explained.
“Do I feel comfortable here? I wouldn’t say that I do.
“But it’s not my choice to be here. The sport has taken the choice to be here.”
Lewis Hamilton made headlines last month after he wore a bespoke helmet designed by British intersex artist Valentino Vecchietti, which features the LGBT+ Progress flag, and is also emblazoned with the words “We Stand Together” and “Love Is Love”.
First look at LH’s new lid. 🌈😍 pic.twitter.com/kpS2YwkKyJ
— Mercedes-AMG PETRONAS F1 Team (@MercedesAMGF1) November 19, 2021
Hamilton, Formula One’s most successful driver of all time and the only Black driver in the series’ history, later confirmed he intended to wear the helmet throughout the Grand Prix as it travelled throughout the Middle East.
The racing legend also took a moment to speak out against women’s rights in the country, saying: “There’s changes that need to be made. For example women’s rights of being able to drive [legally] in 2018, it’s how they are policed. Some of the women are still in prison from driving many, many years ago.
“So there’s a lot of changes that need to happen and I think our sport needs to do more.”
The Formula One series has faced major backlash for holding Grand Prix races in Middle Eastern countries due to the their abhorrent stances on LGBT+ rights and other human rights issues.
However, also speaking to Sky Sports, Formula Oneboss Stefano Domenicali argued that the series’ presence in these countries casts a global spotlight on their antiquated laws, thus acting as a catalyst for change.
“As soon as these countries choose to be under the spotlight Formula One is bringing, there is no excuse.
“They have taken the route of a change.”