Lewis Hamilton has said he is “not comfortable” racing in Saudi Arabia ahead of the penultimate race of the Formula One season, which takes place in Jeddah on Sunday.
“Do I feel comfortable here? I wouldn’t say I do,” Hamilton told reporters on Thursday.
“But this was not my choice. Our sport has chosen to be here and whether it’s fair or not, I think that, while we’re here, it’s still important to do some work on raising awareness.”
It’s the first time F1 has staged a race in Saudi Arabia. To be held at the Red Sea port city of Jeddah, the grand prix is set to be the fastest street track in F1 history, according to the event’s website.
But Saudi Arabia’s human rights record has been repeatedly criticized, and activists have accused the kingdom of “sportswashing” – a phenomenon whereby corrupt or autocratic regimes invest in sports events to whitewash their international reputation.
During November’s Qatar Grand Prix, Hamilton wore a helmet featuring the Pride Progress Flag, a redesigned and more inclusive version of the traditional rainbow flag, and emblazoned with the words “We Stand Together.”
Hamilton will this weekend wear the helmet in Saudi Arabia, where homosexuality is illegal.
“A lot of change needs to take place and our sport needs to do more,” Hamilton added.