Max Verstappen makes subtle dig at Lewis Hamilton
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Mercedes driver Lewis Hamilton has responded to FIA president Mohammed Ben Sulayem after the seven-time world champion was criticised for his activism by the former rally driver. Ben Sulayem previously said that motorsport was “too political” but Hamilton insisted ahead of the Azerbaijan Grand Prix that he won’t stop fighting for social causes.
Ben Sulayem clarified his views on Twitter. “As a driver, I have always believed in sport as a catalyst of progress in society,” the first-year FIA chief said. “That is why promoting sustainability, diversity and inclusion is a key priority of my mandate. In the same way, I value the commitment of all drivers and champions for a better future.”
Ben Sulayem was clarifying the views he gave in an interview with GrandPrix247. “Niki Lauda and Alain Prost only cared about driving,” the 60-year-old said. “Now, [Sebastian] Vettel drives a rainbow bicycle, Lewis is passionate about human rights and [Lando] Norris addresses mental health. Everybody has the right to think. To me, it is about deciding whether we should impose our beliefs in something over the sport all the time.
“I am from an Arabian culture. I am international and Muslim. I do not impose my beliefs on other people? No way. Never. If you look at my operation in the UAE – 16 nationalities. Name me one federation that has that many nationalities.”
Speaking ahead of the first practice session in Baku, Hamilton admitted: “I only heard about it this morning, 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 I want to give that… that maybe has happened? I don’t know. I heard that he clarified things on social media which is positive. That doesn’t stop us from doing what we’re doing.”
Hamilton has been a vocal supporter of LGBTQ+ rights and chose to wear a rainbow helmet during races in Qatar and Saudi Arabia last season. During Pride month, he and Mercedes team-mate George Russell are displaying a logo with Pride colours on their car.
“The sport is continuously growing,” Hamilton said. “We have a bigger audience than ever before and it continues to be an important platform to use our voices, every single one of us here, within the industry and within our companies to do more and speak out more on things and spark more conversations and opinions.
“Just look now, I’m very proud of what we’re doing at Mercedes with the Pride star on the car, which is the first time I’ve seen that during my time at Mercedes.
“We have over 100,000 people within Mercedes Benz and creating a more inclusive environment is so important and focusing on creating even better diversity within your organisation and also so important within the sport, it’s moving at a very slow pace, and we need more people to utilise their platform. I encourage all of the drivers to be more outspoken in future and speak about things they care about. I’m proud to see what Seb [Vettel] does and to be an ally of his.”
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