The FIA has defended its decision to use Vitaly Petrov as a race steward at the Portuguese Grand Prix, despite controversial remarks the Russian recently made.
Petrov’s appointment has been criticised by world champion Lewis Hamilton and LGBTQ+ movement Racing Pride, who were both unhappy about the choice after the former grand prix driver recently criticised F1’s anti-racism push.
Petrov caused further anger when he made what many considered to be homophobic comments in response to Hamilton wearing a Breonna Taylor T-shirt.
“I think half of the audience did not understand at all what this shirt was about until it was explained,” Petrov said in an interview with a Russian publication.
“And what if one of the drivers confesses to being gay and will go out with a rainbow flag and urge everyone to become gay? There can be a lot of examples.”
But despite the unease about Petrov being picked at a time when F1 and the FIA are pushing their ‘We Race as One’ campaign, motor racing’s governing body sees nothing wrong with its choice.
In a statement, the FIA said that remarks made by individuals away from their official roles are never taken into account when it comes to choosing officials.
“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,” said a statement from the FIA.
“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.”
Racing Pride suggested earlier in the weekend, however, that Petrov’s stance on matters did appear to be in breach of the FIA’s Code of Ethics.
It said: “Racing Pride wishes to express its concern at the appointment of Vitaly Petrov as an FIA Driver Steward for this weekend’s Portuguese Grand Prix in light of his recent, widely reported public comments relating to the #WeRaceAsOne initiative, which were both racist and homophobic in nature.
“Not only do these comments display ignorance relating to inclusion in sport, but we also believe that such comments from an FIA official are incompatible with Article 1.2 of the FIA’s Code of Ethics, which states that ‘participants to the FIA activities’ shall not be discriminated against on the basis of factors including ‘race, skin colour, gender, sexual orientation, ethnic or social origin’.”
Additional reporting by Adam Cooper
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