There was a bunch of controversy surrounding F1 when Saudi Arabia was introduced into the 2021 race schedule. Various human rights groups raised questions on the matter.
Previously, Bahrain Grand Prix has also met with a similar fate and so have the Grand Prix in China, Russia, and Abu Dhabi.
Former F1 boss Bernie Ecclestone had always stated that the sport should not mix with politics. Todt seems to agree with this mentality completely.
What did Todt say?
“It’s something which is very dear to my heart,” he said. “And since now five years I’m very much involved with the UN as secretary general special envoy for road safety.
“If you see the high level panel I made on road safety, you have Michael Ellison, a former high commissioner for human rights.
“You have Michelle Bachelet, who is the actual high commissioner for human rights. You have Filippo Grandi, the high commissioner for refugees. So in a way, it’s a privilege I have to be discussing with them,” he stated.
Races should happen all over the world
Todt continued: “Yesterday [F1 boss] Stefano [Domenicali] came to visit me, and I had Jacques Toubon, former justice minister who has been until last year in charge of human rights in France, and I spoke with him about that.
“And everybody is in favor of having races wherever around the world. I mean, we are a sport.
“It’s also something I discussed very often with the International Olympic Committee, with Thomas Bach. Because they have the same problem. And clearly we consider that sport should not be involved with politics.”
Requirement of talks with human rights groups
Todt also mentioned that there is a necessity of holding talks with various human rights groups.
“We need to engage with NGOs [non-government organizations],” Todt said. “And I mean, good NGOs, like Human Rights Watch, who are proper people, to try to say, what kind of contribution we can give? So we are working, we’re working on that.
“You can interpret the way that it helps you. In my opinion, going in those countries gives also the chance for people who are negative about the country to speak, which probably they would not have otherwise.
“So, as I said, it’s a lot of question of interpretation. But, for me, I feel right,” he concluded.
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