Lewis Hamilton in Qatar. (Getty/Mercedes AMG)
Formula One champ Lewis Hamilton will wear the Progress Pride flag on his helmet for this weekend’s Qatar Grand Prix.
The racer is making a show of LGBT+ solidarity at the race, with his crash helmet – which will be beamed from the in-car camera – also emblazoned with the message “We Stand Together”.
Qatar is hosting its first Grand Prix on Sunday (21 November), as part of new 10-year deal.
When it was first announced, in September 2021, Amnesty International was among those to criticise the decision.
It noted Qatar’s “extremely troubling” human rights record, and said that “drivers and their teams should be prepared to speak out about human rights in Qatar in the lead-up to the race, doing their bit to break the spell of sportwashing and image-management”, according to the BBC.
First look at LH’s new lid. 🌈😍 pic.twitter.com/kpS2YwkKyJ
— Mercedes-AMG PETRONAS F1 Team (@MercedesAMGF1) November 19, 2021
Speaking ahead of the race, Lewis Hamilton said: “We’re aware there are issues in these places that we’re going to. But of course [Qatar] seems to be deemed as one of the worst in this part of the world.
“I do think as the sports go to these places, they are the duty bound to raise awareness for these issues.
“These places need scrutiny from the media to speak about these things. Equal rights is a serious issue.”
It is illegal to be homosexual in Qatar, with a punishment of up to seven years in prison or flogging.
Qatar also runs Sharia courts, where it is technically possible that Muslim men could be given a death sentence for engaging in same-sex relations. However, according to ILGA, there is no evidence of any men being put to death.
Anti-LGBT+ laws are just part of Qatar’s heinous record on human rights. Women are treated as second-class citizens, and the country has seen more than 6,500 deaths of migrant workers recruited for a large-scale building programme – mostly for the benefit of the World Cup.
Rather than righting these wrongs, the state is attempting to overhaul its image with huge deals to host sports events, such as the Grand Prix and the 2022 World Cup. It is also engaging celebrities in its PR efforts, with David Beckham recently signing a much-maligned contract to become the “face of Qatar” over the next decade.
Earlier this year Lewis Hamilton used the Hungarian Grand Prix to speak out against its government’s “unacceptable, cowardly” attacks on the LGBT+ community.
“Everyone deserves to have the freedom to be themselves, no matter who they love or how they identify,” he said at the time.