Toto Wolff: F1 cannot ‘hide away’ from social issues when racing in Middle East

Henry Valantine
Mercedes team principal Toto Wolff. Paul Ricard July 2022.

Toto Wolff has urged Formula 1 to keep making an impact where it visits, and not shy away from talking about issues where “cultural standards” are not the same as they are in Europe.

Conversations have continued surrounding the World Cup in football being held in Qatar, with significant concerns having been raised from other nations around its overall human rights record – particularly surrounding LGBTQ+ and women’s rights in the country, as well as the welfare of migrant workers who built the stadia for the matches to take place.

Qatar will return to the Formula 1 calendar on a permanent basis next season, joining on a 10-year deal after hosting a race around Losail in 2021.

Wolff was questioned about concerns surrounding Qatar hosting the World Cup, and on why he feels the sport has been able to “thrive” in the Middle East in comparison.

The Mercedes team principal and CEO thinks this is due to Formula 1 putting the area on a global stage when the series began racing in Bahrain in 2004, and that doing so serves a dual purpose in highlighting what needs to improve in the nations the sport visits.

“I’m still of the belief that when you have such a big sporting event in a country, it puts the spotlight on that country,” Wolff told media including PlanetF1 in Abu Dhabi.

“I think that can trigger change, because things can’t be hidden any more, and that’s the kind of positive that I think a sport can do. Things are being addressed.

“Is it like we want it to be? No. Is it the kind of cultural standards that we have in Europe? Maybe not.

“Where we go, and the people I speak to, I see process and I see change. That’s maybe because we are Formula 1, where we go may be different, but I see that we have an impact.

“I can’t judge the football. I read the newspapers and the headlines. We can just try, where we go to show our presence, to interact with leadership, and not to hide away.

“We can’t when we are there.”

Formula 1 will begin the 2023 season in Sakhir on the weekend of 3-5 March, with three days of pre-season testing at the same circuit the week beforehand.

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