Saudi GP boss to talk to drivers over concerns

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The promoter of the Saudi Arabia Grand Prix has said he is happy to talk to Lewis Hamilton and any other Formula One driver if they have concerns about the nation’s human rights record.

Saudi is hosting its first F1 race on Dec. 5 as the penultimate race of the season. Its addition to the calendar has been controversial, with Amnesty International labelling it as “sports washing” to distract from the nation’s “heinous” human rights record.

Seven-time world champion Lewis Hamilton has been increasingly outspoken about social matters such as human rights and this year wrote a letter to organisers of the Bahrain GP, another controversial F1 event, to express his concerns over the matter ahead of this year’s race.

Saudi GP organiser Prince Khalid Bin Sultan Al Faisal said he spoke to several drivers at the British Grand Prix two weeks ago. Asked on a Monday call with select media whether he’d be happy to talk human rights with Hamilton in future, the prince said: “Not only Lewis Hamilton, but anyone, a normal person, or the media.”

“I’ve met in Silverstone a couple of drivers, wont name their names, but Lewis wasn’t one of them, and they addressed their concerns. I spoke with them openly and said listen, I’m not going to tell anything, you come to Saudi Arabia, and you see it, and if you want to come before the race you can come and judge yourself.

“Whatever I say about my country it is better for you to come and see it yourself, meet with the local people, and there you can have your opinion.”

Ahead of the start of the 2020 season, F1 launched the We Race As One campaign, which aims to tackle global issues such as racism and inequality in society.

“The human rights is very important for us, not only regarding Formula 1 or not, regarding our kingdom and people who live in Saudi Arabia,” Prince Khalid added. “I know we have maybe some different things that can happen, other places it’s not necessarily the same here, but this is human rights, the quality of life in Saudi Arabia.

“This is an initiative from the government, so we work closely with F1 so we are both aligned with our missions, Saudi mission and F1’s obligations for human rights, so as of now things are progressing really good between us.

“This is part of our strategy, Saudi Arabia we are opening up our country, we want to prove the quality of life for anybody, for the Saudis or anyone that visits Saudi Arabia, this will help us achieve our goals.”

The prince went on to say Saudi is open to hosting two races this year if F1 needs to fill any spaces on the schedule, if any more races are forced to cancel due to the pandemic. He also said the series is open to having all-female championship W Series race there in future.



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