Hamilton defends Naomi Osaka again

The seven-time world champion is campaigning for better psychological support for high-level athletes, particularly the youngest. 

Published on 03/06/2021 à 18:26


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Hamilton defends Naomi Osaka again

The Mercedes driver believes that the mental health of professional athletes should not be taken lightly / © DPPI

Lewis Hamilton took advantage of his own media obligations ahead of the Azerbaijan GP to renew his support for tennis champion Naomi Osaka. 

After announcing that she would refuse to participate in the mandatory press conferences organized as part of Roland Garros, to protect her mental health, the world No. 2 was fined $15 (000 euros) for not having appeared in front of the media following her first match at Porte d'Auteuil.

Threatened with expulsion by the organizers of the French Grand Slam tournament, the 23-year-old Japanese ultimately preferred to withdraw from the competition. A gesture welcomed by Hamilton on social networks. “ Mental health is not a joke, it is a real subject that must be treated seriously, the pilot tweeted Mercedes. Naomi showed great courage. Let's show her she's not alone ». 

The seven-time world champion returned to the subject in detail this Thursday in Baku where he too was subject to a host of media obligations. 

« I find her immensely courageous and I applaud her decision, did he declare. It's now theirs (the organizers of Roland Garros, Editor’s note) to question their behavior. Because their reaction, with the fine, was not cool at all.

It’s not nice to sanction someone who talks about their mental health. They could have handled the situation better. I hope they will analyze it in depth and draw the necessary lessons from it. Top athletes are constantly evolving on the edge. We are constantly pushing our limits, but we are still human beings ». 

Speaking of the Osaka situation, Hamilton recalled his early days in F1, when he found himself plunged into the deep end at McLaren at age 22 in 2007.

« She is an incredible athlete and a great girl, he added about the Japanese player, who like him has taken strong positions on burning social issues. Her commitment had a real impact and she is so young… It’s obviously a weight on your shoulders. 

It's inevitable when the spotlight shines on you, but most of us aren't prepared for it. This was the case for me. When I arrived in F1, I had never been trained to express myself in front of the cameras. 

I was not warned and told what to do, how to get out of this or that scenario. So you learn by commenting on mistakes and it's super stressful because you can have the best intentions in the world, some will still try to take advantage of it ».

Perfectly experienced in the media exercise, Hamilton, 36, has nevertheless had trouble with the press during his illustrious career. 

The most notable episode undoubtedly dates back to the 2016 Japanese GP. While engaged in an intense fight for the title with his teammate Nico Rosberg, the Briton was caught on Snapchat during the FIA ​​conference on Thursday before sending the journalists back to their home on Saturday evening in the hospitality of the German stable. 

Despite his colossal experience, Hamilton believes that he still makes missteps in the media sphere. 

« I learned things the hard way, he confided again. Because being in front of a camera remains an intimidating experience, especially if you are an introvert. 

Some are more comfortable than others. I keep learning every day about how to interact as best as possible. 

As I said, I didn't really receive any training when I started and I have the feeling that this is unfortunately the norm for young people coming up. We should offer them more support. You shouldn't feel pressured. 

In Naomi's case, she was uncomfortable with her own mental health. The negative reactions his decision may have caused are simply ridiculous. People forget that she is still a human being who explains that she is not feeling well enough to respond to journalists at the moment. We better support and comfort her ». 

In the age of social networks, where the slightest juicy statement or perceived as controversial can go around the world in a few seconds, and the digital pack phenomena which can ensue, the subject of the mental health of professional athletes, but also the ethics of journalists we recognize, certainly deserves in-depth reflection. 


AUTOhebdo deputy editor-in-chief. The feather dipped in gall.

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