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EXCLUSIVE: 'Sports should be above' politics claims F1 icon

EXCLUSIVE: 'Sports should be above' politics claims F1 icon

EXCLUSIVE: 'Sports should be above' politics claims F1 icon

EXCLUSIVE: 'Sports should be above' politics claims F1 icon

Formula 1 visiting countries that have their politics under the microscope is nothing new to the sport.

Bahrain saw its 2011 race cancelled amid the Arab Spring uprising, and the Houthi rebel's missile attacks impacted 2022's Saudi Arabian GP.

READ MORE: Former Ferrari star suggests team rethinking Hamilton Sainz switch

Now heading back to China for the first time since 2019's race, the country has weathered criticism from human rights groups over its treatment of the Uyghur population.

Sports should come above politics, according to one well-travelled F1 guru who has been in the paddock for many controversial trips over the years.

READ MORE: 'Uncertainty' surrounds Chinese Grand Prix after FIA inspection

F1 has 'always had politics'

The Bahrain GP

Ann Bradshaw was Williams' press officer during the team's championship-winning days in the 1980s and 1990s.

Bradshaw spoke exclusively with GPFans about the issues surrounding Formula 1's long history with politics.

"The major politics then was South Africa, and we went to South Africa," recalls Bradshaw, continuing to say, "I went there in '83 to go and help run the media centre there.

"Then we had a situation where I think it was Renault refused to go because of apartheid.

"I think we've always had politics, and as F1 gains more popularity, more countries are going to want it, and there are countries which you'll look at and say, 'We're not sure about their human rights records.'

"Let's be honest, you can say that's about many places we go to.

"We've gone to China. Look at the stories that come out of there of people.

"The politics will always come into it because perhaps some people who wouldn't normally see Formula 1 as one of their sports see it as something to get their message over."

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Examples of change

F1 Academy in Saudi Arabia

As well as South African apartheid, Bradshaw remembered 2011's troubles in the Middle East, saying, "We had problems in Bahrain when there were riots.

"Journalists were going there and writing about their discomfort at what was going on in Bahrain.

"There are all sorts of stories of human rights issues in many countries, and... people call it sportswashing.

"But if by being seen by a Formula 1 audience, it can help these countries address human rights and say, 'Well, actually, we are going to change.'

"I mean, how long ago was it that women couldn't drive in Saudi Arabia? Now they can.

"I'm not by any means turning around and saying that I agree with a lot of these human rights issues are the things people do, but there has to come a change, and they're using F1 hopefully as a platform."

READ MORE: Horner Red Bull saga given fresh update ahead of Chinese Grand Prix

Politics and Sport

F1 heads to China

Bradshaw ends her thoughts positively, remarking how F1's presence in controversial locations shines a spotlight on them, saying, "People go to these countries that we wouldn't normally go to and see what it is like to live there, work there.

"It's a difficult one because you hate the thought of politics and sport.

"You like to think that we're pure, that we're sporting, and you know, what people come to watch, man against man, and you know, like with the Olympics and things like that, you actually believe that sports should be above politics. I don't know. It's difficult anyway.

"You just think in the end of the day, if it brings... if it highlights something that's wrong, or if it gives somebody who's having a bad time a bit of relief because they love watching it, great."

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