It’s Rights Out, and Away We Go…

With Qatar being added to this year’s F1 calendar, a number of questions regarding the morality of the sport have been raised. Alasdair Russell gives his thoughts on the addition of the race at Losail.

The F1 paddock will travel to the Losail International Circuit in Doha, mostly used for MotoGP, this November.
(Photo Credit – F1 Handout/PA)

Qatar will join the F1 calendar this season, hosting a Grand Prix for the first time at the Losail circuit. While the race will not return in 2022, a 10-year deal has been agreed for the sport in the country, although the venue is yet to be confirmed, with early rumours speculating a street race in Doha. This year’s race will take place on the 21st of November.

In what must be one of the most logistically bizarre decisions in F1 history (and there’s been a few; Malaysia in monsoon season springs to mind), the race will form the final leg of a triple header along with Mexico and Brazil. This means that when the race in Brazil ends on the Sunday night, the entire paddock will have to travel nearly 7,500 miles to be ready for the next race in just a couple of days. Whilst F1 has been no stranger to triple headers in recent years, this one is just plain bizarre, especially when you consider that the two races after Qatar are scheduled to be Saudi Arabia and Abu Dhabi. 

This news has been met with a large degree of criticism from F1 fans. One of the recurring themes of the last season has been F1’s seemingly blatant disregard for its own “We Race As One” initiative. Qatar has long been under fire for breaches of human rights, in particular LGBTQ+ rights, which are non-existent within the Gulf state with homosexuality being illegal and punishable by prison or potentially death in some scenarios. 

Whilst for many years F1 was determined that the sport should be above politics – it was one of the first sports to go behind the iron curtain in the 1980s – it is drastically failing here. What is the point of having a “We Race As One” campaign for equality if they then go wherever the biggest paycheque takes them, ignoring concerns of discrimination, human rights abuse and policies on LGBTQ+ freedoms and rights that simply have no place in this day and age? And even when drivers do make a stand, such as in Hungary when Sebastian Vettel kept on a Pride t-shirt during the national anthem, they are sent to the stewards and reprimanded.

Today has made it clear that, to me at least, the idea of the “We Race As One” campaign is merely words as far as the higher ups are concerned. At least we have drivers and ambassadors like Lewis Hamilton and Sebastian Vettel who really do care – to them, “We Race As One” means so much more than just those four words 

Do better FIA. Do better F1. Do better Liberty Media. Improve, and one day, we may actually race as one.

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