Lewis Hamilton will be making a statement in the Gulf region once again with his helmet design at this weekend’s Qatar Grand Prix.
The Mercedes driver and seven-time Formula 1 world champion had Progress Pride flag colors on his helmet when he won the inaugural race at the Lusail circuit in November 2021, and kept wearing that same helmet in the following two Grands Prix in Saudi Arabia and Abu Dhabi.
Speaking before Friday’s qualifying session, Hamilton confirmed the return of the rainbow for this weekend and emphasized how he hoped it would spark discussion.
“I think it’s always good and well raising awareness for things, but it’s more about the work that’s done in the background, the conversations that you continue to have to have,” he said.
Qatar did not stage a Grand Prix in 2022 as it ploughed its energies into hosting the FIFA men’s World Cup, which highlighted the country’s dismal record on LGBTQ human rights even further.
Hamilton’s gesture comes at the end of a week in which another British sporting icon, David Beckham, has drawn criticism for a confusing response to questions about his multi-million dollar ambassadorial role with Qatar.
The F1 driver recognizes how challenging the task is to move the dial on equality in the Gulf but is determined to play his part.
“It’s such a big machine to shift as well,” he added. “It’s not only the people here, it’s a whole country that’s very young, particularly in this part of the world.
“It has taken the West a long, long time to get to where they are. All we can do is try to be positive when we come to these places and take the opportunity. That’s why I continue to wear the flag here.”
The 38-year-old was widely applauded for his show of allyship in 2021. This year, Hamilton has also worn the helmet at the Bahrain, Miami and Hungarian Grands Prix as a way of drawing attention to anti-LGBTQ laws affecting citizens in those parts of the world.
Hamilton admits he was anxious about what might happen when he donned the Pride helmet for the first time but hearing about the impact it made strengthened his resolve to show support.
“I was really proud of 2021,” he said. “It was also nerve-racking because I didn’t know how the country would react.
“But it’s amazing when I do meet people who are incredibly grateful for utilising the platform for something like that.
“As a sport, we have to continue to work on inclusivity. Diversity continues to be an issue.”
At the start of the year, it appeared that a new FIA policy might restrict gestures such as Hamilton’s choice of helmet but he continues to stimulate debate.
Red Bull have already secured the Constructors’ Championship title, with Max Verstappen almost certain to seal a third consecutive drivers’ title in Qatar.
The Dutchman should wrap that up in Saturday’s stand-alone sprint race, ahead of Sunday’s Grand Prix which he will start on pole position, with Hamilton third on the grid.