Lewis Hamilton has delivered a harsh criticism of the backlash against Naomi Osaka following her withdrawal from the French Open. Hamilton, speaking before this weekend’s Azerbaijan Grand Prix, praised her brave attitude, condemning the French Open organizers for the treatment they gave the Japanese player after her decision not to speak to the press at the tournament. and admitted that he, too, had struggled with the lawsuits. that come with competition on a global stage.
Osaka had stated that she had “suffered long bouts of depression” since winning her first Grand Slam title at the 2018 US Open and did not want to speak to the press at the French Open. She did not do so after her first round win, was fined $ 15,000 and received a joint letter from the organizers of the four grand slam tournaments threatening her with a possible ban. A day later, the 23-year-old retired from Roland Garros.
Hamilton had immediately supported her with a post on Instagram. “Mental health is not a joke, this is real and serious,” he wrote. “This takes a lot of courage to do. Let’s make sure Naomi knows she’s not alone. “
Osaka drew criticism for his stance and his withdrawal from the tournament. Hamilton was 22 when he began his F1 career and condemned the negative response to such a young athlete.
“With Naomi’s scenario, she was not comfortable due to her own personal mental health, the reaction against her was ridiculous,” he said. “People were not taking into account that she is a human being. She was saying, ‘I’m not well enough to do this right now.’
In Baku, the seven-time world champion was also blunt in his dismissal of how the tennis authorities had handled the situation.
“Naomi is an amazing athlete and human being and her activism has been so shocking,” he said. “But when you’re at such a young age with so much weight on your shoulders, it’s inevitable what happened. She was incredibly brave and now it’s about asking questions of those in power, getting them to think about how they react because the way they reacted to the fine was not good.
“Someone talking about their personal mental health and then getting fined for it was not great. They definitely could have handled it better. Hope they dig into that and find a better way to navigate it in the future. As athletes, we are pushing ourselves to the limit, we are at the limit and we are just human beings. “
Hamilton has largely enjoyed a positive relationship with the media, but in 2016 he emerged from a Mercedes press conference at the Japanese GP, unhappy with the media criticism he received for messing with his phone during an earlier media event. .
Osaka’s decision has sparked a debate about the relationship between athletes, the media and mental health issues, something Hamilton welcomed as he empathized with Osaka, referring to the pressure he had felt when making his debut in F1 in 2007.
“When you’re young, you get thrown into the spotlight and into the spotlight, and that weighs heavily on you. Most of us are not prepared, ”he said. “I learned the hard way and made a lot of mistakes. It can be overwhelming in front of a camera. It’s not the easiest thing to do, especially if you’re an introvert and struggling under those kinds of pressures.
“When I was young, they threw me into the well and did not give me any guidance or support. I was never prepared to be thrown in front of the camera or guided on what to look for and how to navigate through it.
“When young people arrive, they face the same thing and I don’t know if that is the best for them.”
Hamilton comes into this weekend’s meeting behind Red Bull’s Max Verstappen by four points in the world championship.
George is Digismak’s reported cum editor with 13 years of experience in Journalism