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Formula 1

LGBTQ+ organisation concerned by Petrov’s FIA appointment

by Scott Mitchell-Malm
3 min read

LGBTQ+ charity Racing Pride has questioned the FIA’s decision to name ex-Formula 1 driver Vitaly Petrov as the driver steward for the Portuguese Grand Prix, an appointment Lewis Hamilton has called a “surprise”.

In an interview with Russian publication Championat last month, Petrov had criticised Hamilton for being so active in raising awareness of human rights issues after Hamilton had worn a T-shirt at the Tuscan Grand Prix demanding the arrest of the officers who shot and killed Breonna Taylor in the United States.

Petrov called Hamilton’s message “excessive”, said the same about his desire to “take the knee” before races in solidarity with victims of racial abuse, and said that “we don’t have it [racism]” in Russia.

He said of Hamilton’s vocal support of the issue: “What if one of the drivers comes out [as gay], and goes out there with a rainbow flag and calls on everybody to become gays or something like that?”

Petrov’s conflation of Hamilton’s stance against racism with someone forcing people to be homosexual unsurprisingly triggered extensive criticism.

But he will make his FIA grand prix stewarding debut this weekend at Algarve, which Racing Pride has questioned in the context of the FIA’s participation in the #WeRaceAsOne diversity initiative.

In a statement published ahead of the start of second practice at Algarve, Racing Pride – a rights initiative working in motorsport to improve inclusivity and support LGBTQ+ participants – suggested Petrov’s prejudicial comments did not fit with the FIA’s own statutes regarding discrimination.

“Racing Pride wishes to express its concern at the appointment of Vitaly Petrov as an FIA Driver Steward for this weekend’s Portuguese Grand Prix in light of his recent, widely reported public comments relating to the #WeRaceAsOne initiative.

“Not only do these comments display ignorance relating to inclusion in sport, but we also believe that such comments from an FIA official are incompatible with Article 1.2 of the FIA’s Code of Ethics, which states that ‘participants to the FIA activities’ shall not be discriminated against on the basis of factors including ‘race, skin colour, gender, sexual orientation, ethnic or social origin’.

“Racing Pride applauds Formula 1’s recent launch of the #WeRaceAsOne initiative and the position of FIA President Jean Todt, stated in the foreword to the FIA Code of Ethics, that ‘The FIA is a truly diverse and multicultural organisation, and we, the FIA community, must all embrace the same ethical principles’.

“A commitment to inclusion is a fundamental principle of good sporting governance. However, in order to be effective, such a commitment must extend to all involved in the sport, in any capacity.

“It is essential that those who are appointed to positions of authority within the sport, especially, are sensitive to, and educated in, pertinent issues and correct terminology relating to diverse communities.

“Racing Pride would be happy to work with the FIA and Formula 1 in providing such education in relation to the LGBTQ+ community, and indeed has already reached out to Formula 1 directly.

“We hope to work alongside all organisations and stakeholders within the sport who share our commitment to providing a safe and welcoming environment for all.”

Racing Pride was launched in 2019 in collaboration with Stonewall, the UK’s pre-eminent LGBT rights charity.

Its statement follows comments made by championship leader Hamilton on Thursday in Portugal, where he was asked about Petrov’s appointment and informed of the comments Petrov had previously made.

Motor Racing Formula One World Championship Portuguese Grand Prix Preparation Day Portimao, Portugal

Hamilton has escalated his active support of human rights movements in recent months, focused mainly on raising awareness of systemic racism around the world and trying to initiate greater diversity in F1 and motorsport – including launching his own commission.

“I would say it’s a surprise to see they would be hiring someone that has those beliefs and is so vocal about things that we’re trying to fight against,” Hamilton said of Petrov’s appointment.

“You should take it up with them really, there’s nothing I can particularly do about it. But we should definitely be including people here who are with the times, who are understanding of the times that we are living in, and sensitive to the matters that are surrounding us.

“I don’t really understand what their goal is or why particularly he’s here. It’s not like they don’t have any other good options.”

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