Lewis Hamilton says comments from FIA president Mohammed Ben Sulayem will not deter his activism on non-sporting issues, and has encouraged all Formula One drivers to be “more outspoken” in future.
Former rally driver Ben Sulayem, who is overseeing his first F1 season as FIA president, questioned the merits of Hamilton, fellow former world champion Sebastian Vettel, and Lando Norris using their platforms to speak out on non-sporting issues.
In an interview with GrandPrix247 during last month’s Monaco GP, Ben Sulayem described motorsport as “too political”, before highlighting Vettel’s promotion of LGBTQ+ rights, Hamilton’s activism on human rights issues and Norris’ attempts to encourage conversations on mental health, and comparing the trio to former world champions Niki Lauda and Alain Prost, who he said were “only interested in driving”.
Ben Sulayem sought to clarify his position with a social media post on Thursday that said he supports the promotion of “diversity and inclusion by drivers”, before Hamilton offered a response during Friday’s press conference ahead of this weekend’s Azerbaijan GP.
“I only heard about it this morning, I’ve not read it, so I don’t really know all that has been said,” the Mercedes driver 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 vocal on several off-track topics during his F1 career, with the seven-time world champion notably choosing to wear a helmet promoting LGBTQ+ rights during last season’s races in Qatar and Saudi Arabia.
Meanwhile, his Mercedes team are currently displaying a logo with Pride colours on their car to support Pride month.
Hamilton added: “The sport is continuously growing, 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.”
Four-time world champion Vettel, who has just become the first F1 driver to appear as a cover star in LGBTQ+ publication Attitude Magazine, echoed Hamilton’s views.
“The topics that Lewis is continuing to raise, the issues Lando has been talking about, and the stuff that I’ve been mentioning, I feel they are topics that are very important to be addressed and they are bigger than us, bigger than the sport can ever be,” Vettel said.
“So it is important to mention those, to express those and to raise awareness, to make people aware there are lots of things we can improve on.”