HR Group Writes to F1 on "Ongoing Concerns" over "Sportswashing"
2023-02-28 - 5:35 p
Bahrain Mirror (Exclusive): A prominent human rights group has written to Formula One CEO Stefano Domenicali to raise serious concerns over what it claims is the sport's ongoing role in "sportswashing" ahead of the Bahrain Grand Prix.
The new season gets underway in Bahrain on March 5, ahead of which the Bahrain Institute for Rights and Democracy (BIRD) has urged F1 and the FIA, motorsport's governing body, not to "sportswash the blood-soaked images" of Bahrain and Saudi Arabia, which hosts a race on March 19.
"Despite horrific human rights records, both states enjoy generous F1 contracts and exploit the F1 platform to sanitize their image on the world stage, while thousands of political prisoners languish behind bars," Sayed Ahmed Alwadaei, BIRD's Advocacy Director, said in a statement commenting on the letter on Monday.
seven-time world champion Lewis Hamilton said nothing will stop him speaking out after new rules clamping down on political statements.
Hamilton stressed that "F1 must establish an independent and impartial inquiry to examine the role of their races in human rights violations, and the FIA must adopt a human rights policy consistent with UN principles," indicating that "Failure to do so will allow their sport to continue to be used to repair the reputation of brutal dictators."
In response to BIRD, an F1 spokesperson said in a statement to CNN: "For decades Formula 1 has worked hard be a positive force everywhere it races, including economic, social, and cultural benefits."
"We take our responsibilities very seriously and have made our position on human rights and other issues clear to all our partners and host countries who commit to respect human rights in the way their events are hosted and delivered."
The FIA, motorsport's governing body told CNN it "cannot interfere in the internal affairs of a sovereign state."
It is to note that this is not the first time that Formula 1 is being highlighted on the background of races held in Bahrain and Saudi Arabia. In 2020, Lewis Hamilton said Formula 1 had a "big problem" with human rights before he took part in the competition in Bahrain.