Lewis Hamilton justifies comments about F1 racing in 'poor place' like India

Lewis Hamilton has moved to explain comments he made about Formula One’s push to race in countries with a limited wealth and racing heritage.

Hamilton, who last month secured his fifth world championship, has spoken out against certain aspects of F1’s push to add races to the calendar, questioning recently whether the sport needed to add a Vietnam Grand Prix — now confirmed for 2020 — when there’s already 21 races a year. This week he elaborated on his view in an interview with BBC Sport.

“On the racing side, I don’t know how important it is to go to new countries as such,” he said. “If you had the Silverstone Grand Prix and a London Grand Prix, it would be pretty cool.

“We’ve got a lot of real racing history in England, Germany, Italy and now in the States it is starting to grow. But you only have one event per year in those places. If it was my business, I’d be trying to do more events in those countries.”

He then referred to F1’s newest addition and one of its short-lived ventures from earlier in the current decade, the Indian Grand Prix.

“I’ve been to Vietnam before and it is beautiful. I’ve been to India before to a race which was strange because India was such a poor place yet we had this massive, beautiful grand prix track made in the middle of nowhere. I felt very conflicted when I went to that grand prix. We had a grand prix in Turkey and hardly anyone came. Cool track, cool weekend but poor audience.”

Those comments were picked up in various places, with several Indian media outlets criticising Hamilton for his comments about the country, while it also gained traction on social media. Some pointed out its status as the fastest growing economy in the world, prompting Hamilton to post a response to Instagram on Thursday.

The post reads: “Hi everyone. I noticed some people are upset with my comment on India.

“First off, India is one of the most beautiful places in the world. The culture there is incredible. I have visited and always had an amazing time however whilst it’s the fasted [sic] growing economy it also has a lot of poverty. My reference was that a Grand Prix there felt strange to drive past homeless people and then arrive in an huge area where money was not an issue.

“They spent hundreds of millions on that track now that is never used. That money could have been spent on schools or homes for those in need. When we did have the race, nobody came because it was too expensive most likely or no interest. However, I have met some amazing Indian fans.”

The Indian Grand Prix was held at the Buddh International Circuit (in northern India) between 2011 and 2013. The circuit originally signed a five-year deal with F1 but the 2014 edition was postponed due to a tax dispute between the circuit and the FIA, with the local government classing F1 as entertainment and not a sport. Subsequent editions also failed to go ahead and it seems unlikely the race will return to the calendar in the near future.