Last Updated: 22/10/20 8:35pm
Lewis Hamilton has expressed “surprise” with the FIA’s appointment of Vitaly Petrov as a steward at this weekend’s Portuguese GP in the wake of controversial comments made by the former F1 driver.
Petrov is making his debut on the four-person stewards’ officiating panel as the driver representative, after appearing in 57 grands prix in 2010-12.
But comments attributed to the 36-year-old in an interview with Russian outlet Championat provoked controversy after Petrov was quoted as saying Hamilton’s wearing of a Breonna Taylor T-shirt at the Tuscan GP was “too much”.
Petrov was also quoted as saying: “What if one of the drivers comes out as gay? Will they go out with a rainbow flag and urge everyone else to become gay or something?”
The Russian’s comments were put to Hamilton in Thursday’s FIA press conference at the Portuguese GP.
“I’ve not seen all the quotes, obviously you’ve just recited some of them,” replied Hamilton, a powerful voice in calling for equality and diversity.
“So yes, of course, that is I would say a surprise to see that they would be hiring someone that has those beliefs and is so vocal about things that we’re trying to fight against.
“So you should take it up with them really, it’s nothing I can particularly do anything about it. But we should definitely be including people here who are with the times, who are understanding of the times that we are living in and sensitive to the matters that are surrounding us.
“So I don’t really quite understand what their goal is or why particularly he’s here because it’s not that they don’t have any other good options.”
The FIA said in a statement: “The FIA appoints driver stewards with the relevant Formula 1 experience and expertise to carry out this function at the highest level, and who have expressed an interest to the FIA in being a driver steward.
“The Federation does not discriminate in this process based upon views expressed outside of their function as an FIA Steward, provided that any such expression does not contravene the FIA’s regulations and Code of Ethics.”
The FIA and F1 have strongly reinforced their respective commitments to improving diversity and opportunities in the sport, with F1 launching the We Race as One initiative earlier this year along with a task force and foundation to widen inclusion.
The sport stages an anti-racism demonstration on the grid ahead of races, with drivers wearing T-shirts calling for an end to racism, with the majority also taking a knee.
Hamilton has created a commission in his own name to understand the barriers to entry for young people from diverse backgrounds to get into motorsport.
Valtteri Bottas, Hamilton’s Mercedes team-mate, said: “As Lewis said, we all should have the same mindset for the things that we are pushing on. I don’t know any details [of what was said].”