(Reuters) – Formula One champion Lewis Hamilton questioned the appointment of Vitaly Petrov as a Portuguese Grand Prix steward on Thursday after the Russian ex-racer criticised his campaigning anti-racism stance.
Petrov, who in 2010 became the first Russian to race in Formula One, told Russian publication Championat last month that Hamilton wearing a T-shirt calling for U.S. police to be arrested for the killing of Black medical worker Breonna Taylor was ‘too much’.
“Let’s say a driver admits to being gay. Will they come out with a rainbow flag and urge everyone to become gay as well? I think the FIA will no longer allow such behaviours,” Petrov added, according to translated quotes published in the media.
Informed that the Russian was a steward at Sunday’s race at the Algarve circuit, and with the quotes read out to him, Hamilton expressed surprise.
“I’ve not seen all the quotes, you’ve just recited some of them,” said Mercedes’ six-times world champion, who could celebrate a record 92nd career win on Sunday.
“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 are trying to fight against.
“You should take it up with them (the FIA) really. There’s nothing I can particularly do about it.
“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 understand what their goal is.”
The FIA said it appointed stewards with the relevant F1 experience and expertise and who had expressed an interest in the role.
“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,” it added.
Petrov was not immediately available for comment.
Formula One last month set out new pre- and post-race rules for driver attire.
While that prevented Hamilton from wearing campaigning T-shirts on the podium, he has still knelt with a Black Lives Matter T-shirt before the race as part of an official anti-racism campaign involving all drivers.
The Briton has also worn a black facemask with BLM on it.
(Reporting by Alan Baldwin in London, editing by Pritha Sarkar)