New FIA president Mohammed Ben Sulayem has backtracked after suggesting Formula 1 drivers were becoming too political.
He recently told Speed Week that it is not the role of those involved in motor racing to “become politicians”, contrasting them with the likes of purists Alain Prost and Niki Lauda.
Sebastian Vettel, on the other hand, is “committed to environmental protection and sexual orientation tolerance”, while Lewis Hamilton is “fighting racism”.
“Lando Norris addresses the thorny issue of mental health,” Ben Sulayem added. “All of this is a testament to how diverse our world has become, with numerous issues that need to be tackled.
“But it’s also about not imposing your worldview on others and putting it above sport. I am a Muslim but would I ever force my culture on other people? Never,” he said.
Following a social media backlash, however, Ben Sulayem has used the medium of Twitter to clarify his comments.
“As a driver, I have always believed in sport as a catalyst of progress in society,” wrote the 60-year-old, who is one of the most successful ever Arab rally drivers.
“That is why promoting sustainability, diversity and inclusion is a key priority of my mandate,” Ben Sulayem added. “In the same way, I value the commitment of all drivers and champions for a better future.”