Lewis Hamilton has told the ruler of Formula One’s governing body that he will not be silenced – and encouraged his fellow drivers to be more outspoken.
Ahead of this weekend’s Azerbaijan Grand Prix, FIA president Mohammed ben Sulayem questioned whether Hamilton, Sebastian Vettel and Lando Norris should express their views.
In an interview with GrandPrix247, Emirati Ben Sulayem was asked what Formula One should not become.
He replied: “Niki Lauda and Alain Prost only cared about driving.
“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.”
Former rally star Ben Sulayem later wrote on Twitter: “As a driver, I have always believed in sport as a catalyst of progress in society.
“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.”
But seven-time world champion Hamilton, who has become a leading voice for improving diversity within the sport, said: “I heard that he clarified things on social media which is positive. But it doesn’t stop us from doing what we are doing.
“The sport is continuously growing. We have a bigger audience than ever before. And it continues to be an important platform for us to use our voices, every single one of us, to do more and to speak out more on things and to spark more conversations.
“Creating a more inclusive environment is so important, as is focusing on better diversity within our own organisation.
“But also it is so important in the sport because it is moving at a very slow pace and we need more people to utilise their platforms.
“I encourage all the drivers to be more outspoken in the future and speak about things they care about.”
Four-time world champion Vettel has demanded environmental change, and wore a T-shirt ahead of last month’s inaugural Miami Grand Prix which read: “Miami 2060. First Grand Prix under water. Act now or swim later.”
The 34-year-old German said: “The topics that Lewis continues to raise, the issues Lando talks about, and the stuff I have mentioned, are topics which are very important and should be addressed.
“They are bigger than us, bigger than the sport can ever be, and it is important to express and raise awareness that lots of things can be improved on.”
Away from the track, Hamilton confirmed he is working alongside Hollywood star Brad Pitt on an F1 film. Pitt is reported to portray a former driver who will come out of retirement to coach an up-and-coming talent.
Hamilton is not likely to feature in the movie, but is instead listed as a producer on the untitled project.
“We are working on the script and spending good time with Brad is pretty epic,” added Hamilton.
“You cannot say all the racing movies in the past have been spectacular and that is something we want to change.
“It’s really about showing how great this sport is to people that have never watched it and also making sure that we keep the real heritage and the true racing spirit within the movie and within the script, so that’s part of my role.
“We don’t want it to be crap which is probably why I’m not going to be a part of it. We need some good actors.”