Lewis Hamilton has come out in defence of Sky Sports F1 pundit Naomi Schiff after the former racer received abuse following her coverage at the Azerbaijan Grand Prix. Schiff has competed in racing events since 2010 and recently became a diversity and inclusion ambassador for the all-female W-series before being offered a punditry role on Sky Sports for the 2022 season.
But she was targeted by trolls after appearing in the paddock in Baku last weekend, with some questioning her credentials in the sport and criticising her personality. But Mercedes star Hamilton – who came fourth in Sunday’s Grand Prix, won by Max Verstappen – was quick to hit back at her critics and said she was more than qualified as a racer to work as a pundit, calling her a great asset and saying the sport had a ‘long way’ to change attitudes.
‘Naomi is an ex-professional racing driver & totally qualified to give her opinion as part of the Sky team,’ he wrote on Twitter. ‘She’s been a great asset since joining and we should welcome more representative broadcasting with open arms. Still have a long way to go to change these attitudes in sport.’ Hamilton had been responded to Schiff’s own retweet, posting a comment from a troll, and she later uploaded a statement thanking those who had supported her.
But she added that online bullying was not ‘going anywhere anytime soon’ and reiterated that ‘words have an impact’. ‘Thank you to everyone who has come to my defence,’ he wrote. ‘I appreciate all the love and support, none of you go unnoticed!’ she said. ‘Sadly the issue of online bullying, bashing, shaming etc is one I don’t believe is going anywhere anytime soon.
‘Social media, in some cases, gives voices to individuals who don’t deserve to be heard. So I encourage anyone reading this to not indulge in it or retaliate or seek revenge. ‘Remember that your words do have impact and that therefore we should do something positive with these platforms and be kind to one another. ‘Lastly, I love my job and won’t let anyone turn down my ambition or passion because they are uncomfortable with the volume.’
A Sky Sports F1 statement read: ‘Naomi has been an excellent addition to our award-winning F1 team. Her experiences as a driver and her passion for and expertise of the sport have been welcomed by millions of viewers so far this season. Hate won’t win.’ Hamilton has regularly stood up against discrimination and abuse in the sport, becoming one main figures in Formula One to take a knee in 2020 to fight racism when George Floyd was killed by a white policeman.
He has also made a stand against homophobia, wearing rainbow colours on his helmet ahead of the Qatar Grand Prix last year.