Mercedes team principal Toto Wolff has said that Formula 1 should not ignore the social issues that are prevalent at the Middle Eastern countries where it visits for Grand Prix Racing. Toto believes that Formula 1 can make a positive impact if they want to.
With the end of the 2022 season of Formula 1 two weeks ago in Abu Dhabi, the world has turned its eyes to Qatar – the host of the 2022 FIFA World Cup.
Qatar has been on the receiving end of widespread criticism because of the way they treat their migrant workers and also because of the condition of human rights in general. This includes the laws that Qatar has against the LGBTQ+ community.
Formula 1 made its first appearance in Qatar in 2021 at the Losail International Circuit. They will return to Qatar again in 2023 and will race there for the next 10 years. This means that Formula 1 will have four races in the Middle East – Bahrain, Saudi Arabia, Abu Dhabi, and Qatar.
Formula 1 has been criticized because of its decision of racing in these countries with poor Human Rights records. Star drivers like Lewis Hamilton and Sebastian Vettel have also been outspoken about these issues when they have raced there.
Toto Wolff joined these figures and in Abu Dhabi he spoke about how F1 should not hide from the inherent social problems present in these countries. He also claimed that Formula 1 should put a spotlight on these countries in order for them to initiate a change.
Toto Wolff wants Formula 1 to interact with the leadership in the middle east
“I’m still of the belief that when you have such a big sporting event in a country, it puts the spotlight on that country,” said Toto Wolff.
“I think that can trigger change, because things can’t be hidden any more. And that’s the kind of positive that I think a sport can do. Things are being addressed,” he continued.
He explained that the current social standards in these countries might not be as perfect as people from Europe are habituated to. But Toto Wolff can definitely see that the sport is having an effect on the countries.
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Toto Wolff did not want to speak about the Football World Cup, but as part of Formula 1, he said that they should start negotiating with the leaders of these countries and not “hide away“
Lewis Hamilton has been quite active regarding these issues. He had donned a helmet with a Pride flag on it during the 2021 edition of the Qatar, Saudi, and Abu Dhabi Grands Prix.
Lewis Hamilton also took to Instagram just before England played Wales in the FIFA World Cup and posted “Don’t forget #LGBTQrights Qatar!!! Let’s go England.”