Qatar Grand Prix: Lewis Hamilton calls for Qatar and Saudi Arabia to be scrutinised over human rights issues

By Andrew BensonChief F1 writer
Lewis Hamilton
Over the past two seasons Lewis Hamilton has worn a host of different T-shirts at races bringing awareness of human rights issues
Qatar Grand Prix
Dates: 19-21 November. Venue: Losail International Circuit
Coverage: Live commentary on BBC Radio 5 Live and BBC Sport website. Text commentary on website and app.

Lewis Hamilton says Formula 1 is "duty bound" to raise awareness of human rights issues in Qatar at the country's maiden grand prix.

F1 boss Stefano Domenicali told BBC Sport this week the sport could help promote change by racing in countries such as Qatar and Saudi Arabia.

Hamilton said: "As sports go to these places, they are duty bound to raise awareness for these issues.

"These places need scrutiny. Equal rights is a serious issue."

Qatar is holding its maiden F1 race this weekend and, from 2023, has a 10-year contract that is said to be the most lucrative in F1.

Saudi Arabia makes its debut on the calendar in two weeks' time.

Hamilton added: "I am aware that in this place they are trying to make steps and it can't change overnight."

Amnesty International has described the human rights situation in both countries as "extremely troubling".

Qatar has been criticised for its restriction on free speech and treatment of migrant workers, especially around the building of stadiums for the 2022 Fifa World Cup.

The kafala system, that governed workers' relationships with their employers, was abolished in Qatar in 2016, but the country continues to face condemnation.external-link

Hamilton said he wished more sportsmen and women would speak out on the topic.

"One person can only make a certain amount of small difference but together, collectively we can have a bigger impact," he added.

"I have been to a lot of these countries and have been ignorant, been unconscious of some of the problems in some of the places.

"It's down to whether you decide to educate yourself and hold the sport more accountable and make sure the sport is actually doing something about it when it goes to these places.

"That's why I've tried to raise my voice, but there are far brighter people that are knowledgeable on these issues that are trying to fight them in the background.

"But I still think we can bring a spotlight to it and create that scrutiny and that pressure that can hopefully create change."

Hamilton's Mercedes team-mate Valtteri Bottas said he believed "F1 and our team are pushing hard" to "raise awareness of situations all around the world".

And four-time champion Sebastian Vettel, who drives for Aston Martin, said: "It's not the first big event held in here or in other places. It is a responsibility every big sport has to face."

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