We race as one.
In 2020, Formula One introduced this new slogan to emphasise and promote its commitment to tackling the most significant issues facing the international community. Some of the core issues presented have been racial equality, ending discrimination based on sexuality, and climate change.
Albeit some awkward moments at the start, this new message has been largely consistent since its inception and encouraged by the drivers.
However, during 2021, the F1 circuit has been taken to Bahrain, Russia, Qatar, and Saudi Arabia, with many failed attempts to organise a race in China as well. The common theme among these countries is their dismal human rights records with continual abuses to this day.
Saudi Arabia, the nation that hosted the most recent Grand Prix, only recently allowed women to drive and still criminal homosexual acts. The country has been criticised by human rights activists for years, and although they claim that progress is being made, they are miles behind the rest of the world, with no encouragement that they are rapidly catching up.
By choosing to race here, are we really “racing as one?”
Or are we “racing for profit?”
The counter-argument raised by F1 officials is that through the F1, cultural change can start to occur in these nations. Personally, I think this comment lacks any real substance. You say that change will take time, and we need to be patient. But then you say that a 3-day race weekend will dramatically improve the dire human rights situation in the nation by allowing ‘cultural change’.
If you want to COMMIT to supporting cultural change – that requires a 365-day commitment, NOT a 3-day commitment that’s accompanied by an excessive paycheque.
I would like to note the work of former World Champion and current Aston Martin driver Sebastian Vettel who organised a women-only karting race in Saudi Arabia during his preparation for the race weekend. A very commendable effort from a driver that has been at the forefront of social justice in the F1 paddock. What if the F1 sponsored the continuation of this event and created a karting league in the nation for girls? THAT would be an example of supporting cultural change.
Formula One is dominated by money.
There was no ‘need’ to race in Saudi Arabia (there are many other racetracks in nations with much better human rights records) but F! made that decision.
The race this past weekend, won by Lewis Hamilton, was filled with drama, accidents and red flags. A metaphorical warning by the racing Gods of the consequences of choosing money over rights.