Formula One world champion Lewis Hamilton hailed Naomi Osaka’s “bravery” for pulling out of the French Open after the fallout over her decision to not engage with media and criticised the way Roland Garros handled the issue.
The 23-year-old four-time Grand Slam winner withdrew from the tournament on Monday after being fined and threatened with disqualification for not honouring mandatory media commitments, claiming they were detrimental to her mental health.
Hamilton sympathised with Osaka, drawing comparisons with how he felt as a raw rookie starting out on his motor racing career.
“The fact is that when you are young, you are thrown into the spotlight and it weighs heavily on you and most of us aren’t prepared,” the Mercedes driver said on Thursday.
“When I got into F1, the team had PR (but) I was never prepared to be thrown in front of a camera, never guided as to what to look out for, helped to navigate through that.
“You kind of learn through mistakes and it’s incredibly nerve-racking, especially when you have all good intentions but people take advantage of it.”
Speaking in Baku ahead of this weekend’s Azerbaijan Grand Prix Hamilton added: “I think she is incredible and I applaud her for her bravery because I think it’s now asking those in power to... think about how they reacted, because I think the way they react wasn’t good.
“Someone talking about their personal mental health and then being fined for it, that was not cool.
“I think they could have definitely handled it better and I hope they will take a deep dive into it and find a better way to navigate in the future.”
He said as athletes “we are pushing ourselves to the limit, we are on the edge and we are human beings”.
He said the Osakas of the sporting world needed support.
“Naomi didn’t feel comfortable for her own personal health to do something and the backlash is ridiculous.
“People are not taking into account that she is a human being and she is saying I am not well enough to do this right now.
“I think that needs to be really looked into and how people react to that, rather than being supportive and uplifting to her.”
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