Verstappen addresses sportswashing concerns after Saudi GP


Max Verstappen has addressed concerns around so-called sportswashing in Saudi Arabia, believing that “we are not going to change the world as a sport.”

Saudi Arabia has become a key player in global sport over recent years, with critics believing it is being used to cover-up abuses of human rights in the country and to promote a better image.

As well as the Grand Prix, a boxing fight between Anthony Joshua and Francis Ngannou was held in the country last week, with Tyson Fury also fighting there recently, with Saudi’s Public Investment Fund (PIF) also taking over Premier League side Newcastle United as well as funding LIV Golf – a breakaway from the PGA Tour with big names like Masters champions Phil Mickleson and Jon Rahm among those to pledge allegiance to LIV.

There were also suggestions in early 2023 that Saudi Arabia could even try to buy Formula 1 from Liberty Media, but the idea was short-lived.

F1’s presence in Saudi Arabia has been controversial, with Amnesty International critical ahead of the first race in 2021, and described the Grand Prix “as sportswashing, plain and simple” ahead of the 2022 event.

However, World Champion Verstappen, who won the 2022 and 2024 races believes F1 by itself won’t rectify the issues highlighted and believes it will take time.

“I think with sport in general, there are a lot of things that you can achieve everywhere in the world,” he told media including RacingNews365.

“Of course, we are not into politics, that’s a whole different story, and I think also it’s very important that sport is sport, politics are politics.

“Sometimes people like to be in the middle of it, I prefer to just focus on sport, otherwise, I would have been a politician, but that’s not my expertise and definitely not where I want to end up as well.

“At the end of the day, every single country has their own flaws, but also positive sides, and we are not going to change the world at the end of the day as a sport, but we try to share positive values.

“It’s also up to the country to make positive changes. I do think that since we have been here already there have been some really nice positive changes and you have to respect that and sometimes you know it takes a bit longer in some countries.

“I think it’s very positive and it’s great to see and also great to meet a new culture as well for everyone to get educated on that as well, because everyone is a little bit different around the world wherever you go, and you have to respect that.

“But then, of course, also, wherever you’re from, your country, there are always things that can be done better, so it’s a work in progress in general.”

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