Seven-time Formula One world champion Lewis Hamilton blasted Florida’s recent slate of anti-LGBTQ laws Thursday ahead of the Miami Grand Prix Sunday.
The lead driver for Mercedes compared legislation signed by Florida’s Republican governor Ron DeSantis, including the “Don’t Say Gay” bill, to conditions that Hamilton has protested when F1 races in the Middle East.
“It’s not good at all,” Hamilton said to the Associated Press. “I stand by those within the community here. I hope they continue to stand firm and push back. I’ll have the rainbow on my helmet. It’s no different to when we were in Saudi.”
Hamilton’s rainbow helmet first appeared at the inaugural running of the Grand Prix of Qatar in 2021. The Persian Gulf state, which hosted the FIFA World Cup amid similar controversy following year, criminalizes homosexuality, with punishment ranging from long-term imprisonment to the death penalty.
Similar laws are also on the books in Bahrain, Saudi Arabia, Azerbaijan and the United Arab Emirates—all stops for the F1 circuit this year.
The British racing superstar, and the circuit’s only Black driver, has rarely shied away from using his platform to talk about issues in the past.
During the Black Lives Matter protests in 2020, he showed solidarity from the starting grid to the podium. And he doesn’t plan to back away, even with the International Automobile Federation (FIA) threatening to sanction drivers for making “political, religious, and personal statements” while on the race track without previous approval.
But this is the first time Hamilton has been critical of policy from tour stops within one of the Western democracies, and the U.S., which has an exploding F1 fanbase.
While Hamilton opposes the measures, he didn’t speak on whether Formula One should consider pulling out of Florida, or pulling October’s United States Grand Prix out of Texas, where similar laws have been proposed and passed.
“It’s not the people of Miami that are making these decisions, it’s the people in government and that’s the issue,” he said. “The sport is going to be here whether I am or not, but the least I can do is just continue to be supportive and just being here and having that on my helmet, hopefully that speaks well to the subject.”