Formula 1 hypocrisy: Embracing the Yemen-bombing Gulf
Formula One reigning champion says no races should be held in a country that's at war, neglecting Gulf states waging war against Yemen.
Formula 1 champion Max Verstappen posed for a picture in front of a Ukrainian flag, wearing "No War" T-shirts, and declared that when a country is at war, it's not right to race there, according to a report by Declassified UK.
F1 organizers went a step further, canceling the Russian Grand Prix, the Haas F1 team dropping Russian Fertilizer company Uralkali as its title sponsor, and Nikita Mazepin - whose father is a majority shareholder in Uralkali - was dropped as a driver.
Verstappen's anti-war stance becomes even more interesting when taking into account that he won his last championship in December from the track at Abu Dhabi, in the UAE. The Emirates is currently part of the Saudi-led coalition on Yemen, which has committed countless massacres against civilians since the war began in 2015.
Although the sport took a political stance against Russia by stripping Haas Ferrari of its sponsor and slowest driver, it has done nothing to take a stance against the sport's title sponsor, Saudi Arabian oil company Aramco, whose branding is laid across every track. F1 organizers have in fact continuously ignored pleas from human rights groups to change circuits from those in Gulf countries.
To this day, none of the drivers dare mention the Yemen war.
It's not just the war on Yemen, but also the demolishing of entire neighborhoods without local consent, with those objecting risking imprisonment or worse, and mass executions in Saudi Arabia targeting the country's minorities.
The Declassified UK report showed that F1's ruling body, the FIA, is now run by an Emirati, that several F1 constructors are financially supported by Gulf monarchies, and that MCLader is majority-owned by Bahrain's sovereign wealth fund and received a financial injection last year from the Saudi Public Investment Fund (SPIF).
Read more: The Washington Post: PGA golfers who play in Saudi Arabia accept blood money
The SPIF is the same fund that is set to buy Italy's Seria A giant, Inter Milan after its takeover of Newcastle.
Gulf dictatorships, most notably Saudi Arabia, are using their wealth to polish their image in the international arena and whitewash their slate of human rights abuses.
“The Saudi government is going all out to bury its egregious human rights abuses beneath public spectacles and sporting events,” Michael Page, Deputy Middle East Director at Human Rights Watch said in December. “Unless they express concerns over Saudi Arabia’s serious abuses, Formula One and participating performers risk bolstering the Saudi government’s well-funded efforts to whitewash its image despite a significant increase in repression over the last few years.”
Read more: Sportswashing human rights violations
It seems easy to take a stance against Russia, because it is not a powerful player in the F1 world, but the sport will not escape competing (and for) regimes that constantly commit human rights violations.