After the conclusion of the 2022 F1 season in Abu Dhabi two weeks ago, the sporting world turned its attention to Qatar, hosts of the FIFA World Cup.
Qatar has been criticized for its human rights record and treatment of migrant workers in the construction of tournament stadiums, as well as for its laws against the LGBTQ+ community.
F1 first raced in Qatar last year and will return in 2023 under a 10-year deal that will see the number of Middle East grands prix rise to four per season, joining Bahrain, the Saudi Arabia and Abu Dhabi.
Lobby groups have criticized F1 for racing in these countries given their human rights record, while drivers such as Lewis Hamilton and Sebastian Vettel have cited social issues during their races there. down.
Speaking in Abu Dhabi, Mercedes team principal Wolff said F1 could not hide from problems in those countries, and that racing there was helping to bring them to light in a bid to make a change.
“I’m always of the opinion that when there’s such a big sporting event in a country, it puts the spotlight on that country,” Wolff said.
Toto Wolff, Team Principal and CEO, Mercedes AMG
Photo by: Gareth Harford / Motorsport Images
“I think it can trigger changes, because things can no longer be hidden. And that’s the kind of positive that I think a sport can do. Things are processed.
“Is this how we want it? No. Are these the kind of cultural norms we have in Europe? Maybe not. Where we go, and the people I talk to, I see the process and I see the change. It may be because we are in Formula 1, where we may be different, but I see that we are having an impact.
“I can’t judge football. I read newspapers and headlines. We can just try, where we are going, to show our presence, to interact with the leaders and not to hide.
“We can’t when we’re there.”
Last year, Hamilton wore a helmet with the Progress Pride rainbow flag central to the design of the final three races of the season in Qatar, Saudi Arabia and Abu Dhabi.
Ahead of England’s World Cup game against Wales on Tuesday, Hamilton wrote a post on Instagram saying: “Remember #LGBTQrights Qatar!!! Let’s go to England.