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Hamilton Says He's 'Not Comfortable' Racing, Calls Out Saudi Arabia's LGBTQ+ Laws

Lewis Hamilton to wear helmet with the pride flag in Saudi Arabia Grand Prix.

Lewis Hamilton continues to take a stand on human-rights issues and condemned Saudi Arabia's "terrifying" LGBTQ+ laws ahead of Sunday's Grand Prix. 

"Do I feel comfortable here? I wouldn't say I do," the 36-year-old driver for Mercedes told reporters Thursday, per CNN. "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."

Similarly to the Qatar Grand Prix, Hamilton will again wear a helmet with the Pride Progress Flag with the words "We Stand Together" during the Saudi Arabia Grand. 

"A lot of change needs to take place and our sport needs to do more," Hamilton said. 

This penultimate race marks the first in Saudi Arabia for Formula One, which will be held at the Red Sea port city of Jeddah. The country has been widely criticized for its human-rights record, and per The Guardian, multiple groups wrote to the league, criticizing their decision to compete there.

Human Rights Watch (HRW) wrote to Formula One CEO Stefano Domenicali, executive chairman Chase Carey, and Fédération Internationale de l’Automobile (FIA) president Jean Todt on Nov. 29 to request a meeting concerning human-rights policies. They mentioned in the letter how "dozens of women’s rights and other peaceful activists are imprisoned, on trial, or effectively silenced and travel banned for their peaceful activism in Saudi Arabia," highlighting that how activists have been imprisoned after campaigning for the women's right to drive. 

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"Formula One is in a unique position to either enable or endorse this human rights image-washing or it can press the Saudi Arabian government on its human rights record," the letter reads. "Your flagship Grand Prix is an opportunity to step up to your commitments on human rights and speak out for victims of Saudi abuse."

Hamilton is not the only Formula One driver taking a stand on the country's human-rights crisis. Sebastian Vettel hosted a women-only kart event, inviting local drivers so he could hear firsthand the concerns about gender equality. 

"There are a lot of questions that have been asked and I have asked myself, so I was thinking of what I can do," the Aston Martin driver said, per Motorsport.com. "There has been so much attention on negative examples when it comes to shortcomings of certain countries in regards to maybe human rights and other things, so I really tried to think of the positives.

"I set up my own karting event today under the hashtag #raceforwomen, and I think a group of seven or eight girls and women were on the track. We set up a nice event only for them and I was trying to pass on some of my experiences in life and on track, to do something together to grow their confidence."

Saudi Arabia ended the ban on women driving in 2018, and Vettel commented about how he learned a lot from speaking with the drivers, adding, per ESPN, "It is true that if we look through a western or European lens that there are still lots of things that should be improved and have to be addressed. But it is also true that some things are changing and for those people it makes a huge difference.

"At the end, it is very difficult for us coming to a country where we only spend a couple of days and we try to be a perfect judge, but not knowing the background exactly and the people inside out."

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