Qatar: Drivers free to say whatever they want to say

Michelle Foster
F1 drivers take a knee. Bahrain November 2020

F1 drivers take a knee. Bahrain November 2020

Qatar will not silence Formula 1’s drivers when they head to the Losail circuit, adamant they are “free to say” what they want.

This year Formula 1 will be racing under the lights at Losail, Qatar playing host to the third last grand prix of the season as it fills the slot vacated by Australia.

It will mark the sport’s first visit to the country, with Qatar later starting a 10-year deal in 2023 with reports saying the race could move to the streets of Doha.

But while F1’s powers-that-be are delighted with the new venue, claims of ‘sportswashing’ were levelled by Amnesty International.

Releasing a statement after F1’s confirmation of the Qatar race, Amnesty International described the country’s human rights record as “extremely troubling” and urged F1 to “insist all contracts pertaining to this race contain stringent labour standards across all supply chains”.

The statement added “drivers and their teams should be prepared to speak out about human rights in Qatar in the lead-up to the race, doing their bit to break the spell of sportswashing and image-management”.

Qatar’s motorsports chief insists Formula 1’s drivers will not be silenced.

“We are happy to support the drivers to speak their minds on their platforms,” Abdulrahman Al Mannai, president of the Qatar Motor and Motorcycle Federation, told AFP in an interview.

“We don’t see it as an issue in Qatar because they are free to say whatever they want to say.”

He added: “Qatar has been open…to criticism. Qatar has been working for the past few years to improve things when it comes to labour issues.”

Al Mannai is hoping for a sell-out race at the Losail circuit, which is also a venue on the MotoGP calendar.


“We are trying to maximise the occasion (and) we are trying to add more to the Formula 1 event,” he added. “I think we will see some nice surprises during the weekend of Formula 1.”

The Qatar Grand Prix takes place on November 21.