Lewis Hamilton has opened up about his own experiences with the media during his early days in Formula One after Naomi Osaka was forced to withdraw from the French Open due to her refusal to take part in post-match interviews.
In a statement ahead of the tournament, Osaka announced she would not be speaking to the media during the French Open to protect her mental health, however, after following through on her proposal, the player was promptly fined $15,000 (£10,570) after her opening-round victory.
After threats she could face expulsion for her decisions, Osaka announced she would be withdrawing from Roland Garros, saying she had “suffered long bouts of depression” since winning her first Grand Slam title in 2018.
Hamilton originally took to social media to praise the 23-year-old for her actions, however, when asked about it during the press conference for the Azerbaijan Grand Prix, refused to say she needed any advice from him.
“I don’t think I’m the right person to say whether it’s the right thing for people to do to seek help necessarily,” said the seven-time world champion.
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“I’ve never believed in sports psychology, but it’s definitely an interesting topic.
“I won’t say that I have advice for her, I think she is an incredible athlete and human being and her activism has been just so impactful, and at such a young age, so much weight on her shoulders, It’s inevitable.
“The fact is when you’re so young you’re thrown into the limelight and the spotlight and it weighs heavily on you.
“And the thing is probably, most of us are not prepared, I remember when I got to Formula One and the team had PR, I was never prepared for being thrown in front of a camera, I was never guided as to what to look out for, and helped to navigate through that.
“So you kind of just learn through mistakes, and it’s incredibly nerve-wracking, especially when you have all good intentions, but people take advantage of it.
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“So I think she’s incredibly brave, and I applaud her for her bravery, as I think it’s now asking those in power, putting them in question, and making them think about how they react.”
French Tennis Federation president Gilles Moretton said the withdrawal was “unfortunate” in a statement.
“We are sorry and sad for Naomi,” Moretton added. “We wish her the best and quickest possible recovery, and we look forward to having Naomi at our tournament next year.
“As all the Grand Slams, the WTA, the ATP, and the ITF, we remain very committed to all athletes’ wellbeing and to continually improving every aspect of players’ experience in our tournament, including with the media, like we have always strived to do.”
However, Hamilton hoped the organisers have learnt a lesson from their actions.
He explained: “The way they reacted was not good, with the fine. Someone talking about their personal mental health and then being fined for it. That wasn’t cool, they could’ve definitely handled it better I’m sure.
“I hope they take a deep dive into and find a better way to navigate in the future.
“As athletes, we are pushing ourselves to the limit, we are on the edge and we are only human beings.”