F1 News

Expert: 'F1 F1 guilty of sportswashing'

Expert: 'F1 F1 guilty of sportswashing'

11 January - 17:00


Recently, the term 'sportswashing' has been raised more often in the sports world. The meaning? Authoritarian governments abuse certain sporting events by attracting them to their countries to hide or polish their bad reputation. It now appears that Formula 1, according to experts, also 'sportswashes'. 

F1 boss Stefano Domenicali said in Qatar last year that while cultural change does not happen overnight, organising races does help bring about positive development in such countries.

In reality, F1 particularly seems to need the money that races in the Middle East (think of Qatar, Bahrain and Saudi Arabia) can bring. "Formula 1 is the sports sector that is most commercially oriented and where monetary considerations in particular play a central role," said sports policy expert Dr Jürgen Mittag in an interview with Speedweek.com.

Dr Mittag points out that it is clear that F1 does not actually pay that much attention to political and social considerations. As an example, he cites Sebastian Vettel, who often openly expressed political statements on the track towards the end of his career. Lewis Hamilton has also been known to participate in this, regularly speaking out on humanitarian and cultural issues. Late last year, it was announced that political statements would be banned in F1 without permission from the FIA.

'Viewing F1 with a critical lens'

"Formula 1 should be looked at critically in this respect because it does not apply the sensitivity that other sports federations do, at least by now," the expert says. Sportswashing did prove to work to some extent, as during the Qatar World Cup, people very quickly forgot about all the country's abuses that were first widely raised. Some threatened to boycott the World Cup, but this turned out to hardly be a thing in the end.

These facts aside, Dr Mittag remains critical when it comes to F1's actions: "You cannot claim that by awarding a tournament to a country you are fundamentally contributing to the situation on the ground." 

Video player

More videos