Hamilton says it's important for F1 to show its values as Russell calls for transparency

Mercedes pair speak ahead of the Saudi Arabian Grand Prix as controversy surrounds motorsport's premier race series

Lewis Hamilton walks in the paddock ahead of the Saudi Arabia Grand Prix at Jeddah Corniche Circuit on March 06, 2024. Getty
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Lewis Hamilton said Formula One faced a pivotal moment and needed to show its values while Mercedes teammate George Russell called for transparency following reports alleging that senior leadership at the sport's governing body intervened to overturn a penalty last season.

Red Bull team boss Christian Horner has been in the spotlight after a drawn-out investigation into misconduct allegations by a female employee showed clear divisions behind the scenes.

On Tuesday, the FIA issued a statement but would not confirm news reports that allegations made by a whistleblower were about its president, Mohammed ben Sulayem.

The BBC reported the allegations surrounded interference in the 2023 Saudi Arabian Grand Prix and seeking to deny certification of the Las Vegas street circuit that debuted last November.

"As someone who loves the sport, it's definitely disappointing to see what's going on right now," seven-time world champion Hamilton told reporters at the Saudi Arabian Grand Prix in Jeddah.

"It doesn't look good from the outside world, the outside looking in. I think it's a really, really important time for the sport to show and stick to its values, holding ourselves accountable for our actions.

"And it's a really pivotal moment I think for the sport, in terms of what we project to the world and how it's handled. And it's not been handled very well to this point.

"I hope it's not a year that continues to go on with this. But it highlights some of the issues we also have within the sport."

2023 Saudi Grand Prix - in pictures

Russell finished fourth behind Fernando Alonso in last year's Saudi Arabian Grand Prix but was briefly upgraded to third when Alonso was given a 10-second penalty because Aston Martin's pit crew touched the car with a jack while serving an earlier penalty. That ruling was later overturned.

The BBC reported this week that FIA president Ben Sulayem allegedly intervened to have the Alonso penalty overturned. The FIA said Tuesday that its compliance officer has received two complaints "detailing potential allegations involving certain members of its governing body".

“We want to see all of the facts and just have total transparency, really ... We want a fair and level playing field for us to showcase what we can do,” said Russell, who is also a director of the Grand Prix Drivers’ Association, which represents F1 drivers in dealings with the FIA and other organisations.

“We were surprised a year ago when the result got overturned," Russell said. "The legal team, Mercedes thought they did a great job of presenting our case and initially winning the case and then losing it thereafter. So we just want to see transparency and have that opportunity to race on a level, fair playing field.”

Russell also said it would be “exciting” if three-time champion Max Verstappen joined Mercedes as his teammate for 2025 when Hamilton leaves for Ferrari.

Verstappen's current team, Red Bull, is in turmoil over the role of team principal Horner, who remains in charge after the team's parent company last week dismissed a complaint of alleged misconduct by Horner toward a team employee. He has denied wrongdoing, but Verstappen's father, Jos, has criticised Horner's remaining with the team.

“I think any team wants to have the best driver lineup possible, and right now Max is the best driver on the grid, so if any team had a chance to sign Max, they would 100 per cent be taking it,” Russell said. “So I think the question is more on the other side, on his side and on Red Bull’s side. Obviously there’s so much going on there. We don’t know what truly is going on behind closed doors, and ultimately it’s none of our business right now. I guess it would be exciting.”

Hamilton said he wouldn't be surprised to see Verstappen move to Mercedes.

“I know and I am sure Max is on the list,” Hamilton said. “I wouldn’t say I am surprised that he is being considered. He is a great driver.”

Verstappen won the season-opening Bahrain Grand Prix last week and is favourite to retain his title.

Updated: March 07, 2024, 6:15 AM