Lewis Hamilton and Sebastian Vettel vow to keep speaking out after FIA president criticism

Both Lewis Hamilton and Sebastian Vettel have vowed to continue speaking out on important societal issues. This comes after FIA president Mohammed Ben Sulayem appeared to suggest drivers shouldn’t do so, saying they are “imposing their beliefs” on others.

But just a day after the interview was published, he seemed to backtrack on his previous remarks, posting on Twitter: “As a driver, I have always believed in sport as a catalyst of progress in society. That is why promoting sustainability, diversity and inclusion is a key priority of my mandate. In the same way, I value the commitment of all drivers and champions for a better future.”

In the official news conference before this weekend’s race in Baku, Hamilton said it was “positive” Ben Sulayem had clarified his remarks. “I only heard about it this morning, I’ve not read it, so I don’t really know all that has been said,” the Mercedes driver said.

“I’m also aware that sometimes things I’ve said have been taken out of context, so I want to give that… that maybe has happened? I don’t know. I heard that he clarified things on social media which is positive. That doesn’t stop us from doing what we’re doing.”

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Hamilton said he was “proud” of his Mercedes team for using logos on their car and on both his and George Russell’s helmets at this weekend’s Azerbaijan Grand Prix to promote Pride month, adding: “I encourage all of the drivers to be more outspoken in future and speak about things they care about.

“I’m proud to see what Seb (Vettel) does and to be an ally of his.” Vettel then said: “It is important to express and mention [these topics], raise awareness, make people aware there are lots of things we can improve on.”

Ben Sulayem became the FIA President in 2021, succeeding Jean Todt. During the pre-Azerbaijan GP press conference drivers were asked whether they had confidence in the 60-year-old and the FIA, given the chaos surrounding the delayed start time of the Monaco GP, and of course the controversial Abu Dhabi GP last year, which saw Michael Masi lose his job as race director.

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Hamilton and Vettel were alongside Alpine’s Fernando Alonso, Ferrari’s Charles Leclerc and Williams driver Nicholas Latifi and initially, nobody answered. Eventually, after both Vettel and Hamilton refused to be the first to answer, Alonso said: “I have full trust in the FIA president.”

“Maybe we saw a few things at the beginning of the year that were not as consistent as we asked for. There is room to improve but I have full trust in the FIA president that he will fix the things that need to be fixed.”

Hamilton added: “On Mohammed, it’s a huge role and big shoes to fill. There are lots of things he wants to do and change.” The next race will commence at midday on Sunday at the Baku City Circuit.

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