Mercedes’ Toto Wolff has joined Lewis Hamilton to clarify the comments made by the Formula 1 champion on India after huge backlash in the country.
Hamilton talked about being conflicted racing in India between 2011 and 2013 especially seeing the poverty around the circuit in Northern India. The comments has since been removed from the story after severe backlash.
“I’ve been to India before to a race which was strange because India was such a poor place yet we had this massive, beautiful grand prix track made in the middle of nowhere,” he said in the interview to BBC. “I felt very conflicted when I went to that grand prix.”
The comments were taken out of context to project that Hamilton said India as a ‘poor’ country, while what he meant was being conflicted to race at such a massive facility when outside that he saw great poverty.
The British driver intended to stress on the contrast he saw during his visit but majority of the media outlets in the country took great offence which forced not only Hamilton but also Mercedes’ team boss Wolff to step in and clarify.
“I noticed some people are upset with my comment on India,” he wrote on his Instagram account which he shared on Twitter as well. “First off, India is one of the most beautiful places in the world. The culture there is incredible.
“I have visited and always had an amazing time however whilst it’s the fastest growing economy, it also has a lot of poverty. My reference was that a grand prix there felt strange to drive past homeless people, then arrive in a huge arena where money was not an issue.
“They spent hundreds of millions on a track that was now never used and that money could have been spent on schools or homes. When we did have the race nobody came because it was too expensive or there was no interest. However, I have met some amazing Indian fans.”
Wolff added: “It is once again unbelievable to me how the words and the meaning of Lewis get spun out of context in this way. He spoke with empathy about India and the painful contrast between wealth and poverty that we face while travelling the globe as sporting ambassadors.
“Lewis did not criticise the nation and his words were those of a thoughtful and considered champion. The only fault here lies with the people who have twisted his words to mean something else entirely.”
What I think…
It is unfortunate that such controversy was created out of nothing actually. Hamilton has been to India several times even before the grand prix took place for showruns and also during the event, he did charity work with UNICEF for poor children.
The comments nowhere suggests that he called the whole country as poor but he tried to showcase the contrast between the rich and poor. As an Indian, we know that the contrast exist in the country, but for an outsider, it is always a new thing to see.
To be fair, poverty does exist everywhere in the world, it is the magnitude which differs from place to place. Naturally, a lot of the media – who don’t usually cover grand prix races – were quick to pounce on the ‘negativity’ and spread it among the common people.
It certainly has been taken in the wrong way which has created undue criticism and showcases wrong image of the country to the outside world with yet another slap on the Indian media to exaggerate things unnecessarily.
On the other hand, I don’t agree with Hamilton when he questioned the need of a race circuit in the country which is still developing. To be fair, every country who stages a global event, they do it with a purpose as sport is an integral part of a country’s development.
In fact, even in the current F1 calendar, there are many countries which are not perfect like India and still host the event which is lauded by everyone. Sport is and should be taken as one element which brings together all kinds of people with a common passion.