Racing Pride, an organisation promoting LGBTQ+ inclusivity within the motorsport industry, has moved to 'express its concern' at the decision to invite Vitaly Petrov onto the panel of FIA Driver Stewards for this weekend’s Portuguese Grand Prix in Portimao.

The Russian racer started 64 grands prix during a three-season stint in F1 with Renault and Caterham between 2010 and 2012, while he is also a Le Mans 24 Hours podium winner too.

However, his appointment as a steward in Portugal this weekend has raised eyebrows following an interview given to the Russian sport publication Championat, in which he expressed critical views of Lewis Hamiton’s encouragement of fellow F1 drivers to kneel before races in a solidarity of the global Black Lives Matter movement.

 

 

In addition to these views, Petrov went on to compare it with the expression of LGBTQ+ views, saying “what if one of the drivers comes out as gay? Will they go out with rainbow flag and urge everyone else to become gay or something?’

With Hamilton himself saying he is ‘surprised’ at Petrov’s appointment in the wake of these comments given F1’s vocal  promotion for diversity and inclusiveness through its #WeRaceAsOne initiative, Racing Pride has added its voice to the dissent.

“As a competitor in any sport, you want to know that you will receive fair, equal, impartial treatment, that you will not face discrimination on the basis of who you are, and, more than that, that you are welcome within the sport,” said Richard Morris, racing driver and Racing Pride co-founder. 

“That is why it is essential that those in positions of authority in any sport are educated with regard to inclusive principles, behaviour and language. 

“This is an area in which motorsport as a whole could clearly do more, and Racing Pride would be delighted to work constructively with Formula 1 and the FIA to put that education and awareness in place.”

Russia has long held strongly conservative views regarding homosexuality, with restricted rights - including no recognition of same-sex unions - and evidence of social discrimination widespread. It is also now against the law to distribute materials seen to promote LGBTQ+ relationships.

Full statement from Racing Pride below Editor’s Note

Editor’s note

As a gay man with his eye on the world, negative views targeted against myself and my peers - either directly or generally - are something that becomes par for the course, unfortunately, and while you devise your own way of respondibng to them - be it through action, a thick skin or being just that bit more acutely aware discrimination is rife - it’s hard to read comments and not feel them personally.

As a gay man working in the motorsport industry - or rather, as a person working in the motorosport industry - I am humbled and warmed to say I have never once encountered outright discrimination, though I do actively steer away from comments threads for a reason.

Indeed, it’s very rare these two very important worlds of mine meet head-on, which is why I am writing this editor’s note as someone who has a very different angle to view this from than most.

LGBTQ+ representation in motorsport isn’t vast from my own knowledge, but while my little black book is bulging with contacts, it doesn’t mean I know everyone out there. If anything, I view it as ‘we’re probably here, we’re definitely queer and we’re surrounded by tolerance’.

Petrov’s comments - not just about LGBTQ+ - do irk me because while I respect his right to hold his own views, to leverage them in such a simplistic and sweeping generalisation here is belittling of the hardships experienced by those on the rough end of discrimination.

But my concern isn’t so much for him here, it is more towards F1 itself which has the power to hire and fire when it comes to roles such as this. While I would frown upon this appointment any year in light of this interview, the storm being whipped up by his comments serve to diminish the efforts to promote diversity and inclusivity in F1 through the #WeRaceaAsOne campaign.

I was genuinely moved by F1’s push to glance outside of the bubble it creates around itself and be about more than just motorsport, so to see it sitting on the fence (as of writing) over Petrov is a mixed message that I feel risks undoing a lot of its own hard work. Granted, it should be noted here that Petrov is appointed by the FIA rather than F1/Liberty itself, but the initiative itself is expressed as one.

Speaking purely personally, I am of the opinion that - using a clunky metaphor - you will struggle to convince someone the sky is blue if they are adamant it is green and given Petrov’s environment in Russia certainly doesn’t foster tolerance in this particular area, I don’t expect him to put out a statement recanting his views. Nor am I terribly bothered if he does.

It’s why I take pride (pun intended) at organisations like Racing Pride that provide a viewpoint and an outlet for LGBTQ+ representation in motorsport because while you may think it’s not crying out for one, it ensures everyone can and will be heard when needed.

So, while this may appear like a throwaway comment from the outside-in, it does make me pause and ponder for a moment regardless because it touches upon something that is so very important to me… and this is coming from someone who has heard every slight and insult going over the years. 

F1 has positioned itself as better than this so it'd be heartening if it showed some mettle and took action, rather than look away when its own policies are being tested.

And before someone comments that I’m being a ‘snowflake’, to borrow a quote, a lot of snowflakes can still cause an avalanche…

Full Racing Pride Statement

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’.

Racing Pride applauds Formula 1’s recent launch of the #WeRaceAsOne initiative and the position of FIA President Jean Todt, stated in the foreword to the FIA Code of Ethics, that ‘The FIA is a truly diverse and multicultural organisation, and we, the FIA community, must all embrace the same ethical principles’.

A commitment to inclusion is a fundamental principle of good sporting governance. However, in order to be effective, such a commitment must extend to all involved in the sport, in any capacity.

It is essential that those who are appointed to positions of authority within the sport, especially, are sensitive to, and educated in, pertinent issues and correct terminology relating to diverse communities.

Racing Pride would be happy to work with the FIA and Formula 1 in providing such education in relation to the LGBTQ+ community, and indeed has already reached out to Formula 1 directly. We hope to work alongside all organisations and stakeholders within the sport who share our commitment to providing a safe and welcoming environment for all.

 

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