FIA president backtracks after peculiar Hamilton comments, insists he doesn’t ‘impose Arabian culture’ on others

Following backlash for his controversial comments, FIA president Mohammed ben Sulayem said he has always "believed in sport as a catalyst of progress in society".

FIA president Mohammed ben Sulayem has taken to Twitter to save face after some slightly controversial comments regarding the activism of Sir Lewis Hamilton and Sebastian Vettel.

Hamilton and Vettel have long been advocates for positive change in the pinnacle of motorsport, standing up for minorities that have been historically prejudiced and persecuted against for many years, and Lando Norris frequently campaigns for mental health awareness.

June represents Pride Month, the month during which members of the LGBTQ+ community are celebrated in a push to educate people on different sexualities and end the discrimination against them.

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Mercedes are donning a Pride Star on the front of the W13 cars driven by Hamilton and George Russell for the next three races, and Vettel recently gave an interview to Attitude Magazine – a publication that celebrates the LGBTQ+ community – to express his stance against all forms of discrimination.

“For me, it’s very simple: how can anyone think they have the right to dictate to someone else how they should live or whom they should love?” he said.

“The answer is: they don’t have that right. I’m happy to stand up for that principle.

“I’m totally against racism, sexism, ageism, homophobia and all forms of prejudice. I’m very concerned about the environment. I’ll always stand up for those values and principles.

“Whether I like someone or not has nothing to do with their sexual orientation or skin colour. I see everyone as equal. 

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“But hearing from people, or reading their stories, and learning about how they dealt with suppression has surely had an impact on me, both consciously and subconsciously.”

Ben Sulayem, however, appears to see their push for social justice and equality as an attempt to “impose” their beliefs on others.

“Niki Lauda and Alain Prost only cared about driving,” he said in an interview with

“Now, Vettel drives a rainbow bicycle, Lewis is passionate about human rights and Norris addresses mental health. Everybody has the right to think. 

“To me, it is about deciding whether we should impose our beliefs in something over the sport all the time.

“I am from an Arabian culture. I am international and Muslim. I do not impose my beliefs on other people? No way! 

“Never. If you look at my operation in the UAE: 16 nationalities! Name me one federation that has that many nationalities.

“On top, there are over 34% women and 7 religions. And even more Christians than Muslims. I am proud because it creates credibility and merit.

“But do I go and pose my beliefs? No. The rules are there, even now there are issues when it comes to, for example, jewellery, I didn’t write that.”

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Fact-checking that slightly, Niki Lauda called for a drivers’ vote ahead of the 1976 German Grand Prix due to the dangerous conditions, and he went on to suffer horrific injuries in a fiery crash when the race went ahead.

The Austrian and fellow driver Didier Pironi then held a strike ahead of the 1982 South African Grand Prix to protest the FISA’s ruling that all drivers were to be tied down to a team for at least three years.

Lauda’s friend and championship rival James Hunt publicly spoke out against Apartheid in South Africa as a driver and broadcaster, so drivers from the era that ben Sulayem was talking about were certainly not as passive as he seems to believe.

After a lot of backlash from fans on social media, the Emirati attempted to save face by tweeting his support for the causes that a lot of the drivers fight for.

“As a driver, I have always believed in sport as a catalyst of progress in society,” he said.

“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.”