Lewis Hamilton says the setback tennis star Naomi Osaka has received after her withdrawal from the French Open is “ridiculous”.
And Hamilton said most athletes were “not prepared” for success and that the pressure of fame “weighs heavily on you”.
“It can be scary to still be behind a camera,” he said.
“It’s not the easiest, especially if you’re an introvert and you’re struggling to be under that pressure.”
Hamilton spoke ahead of this weekend’s Grand Prix in Azerbaijan at the end of a week in which sporting headlines have been dominated by Osaka’s withdrawal from the French Open.
The Japanese world number two initially refused to make media commitments at the tournament to “protect her mental health”.
She then withdrew from the tournament on Monday, a day after the organizers of the four Grand Slam tournaments threatened to expel her for not speaking to the media.
The incident has opened up a debate about the relationship between sports stars and the media, especially in relation to mental health.
Seven-time champion Hamilton said: “She is an incredible athlete and human being, and her activism has been just as influential. But at such a young age, there is so much weight on her shoulders that it is inevitable.
“The fact is, when you’re young, you’re thrown into the limelight and into the limelight, and that weighs heavily on you. Most of us are not prepared.
“When I got into F1, the team had PR. I was never prepared to be thrown in front of a camera. I was never guided as to what to look out for and helped navigate through it, so I kind of learned through mistakes …
“But when I was young, I was thrown into the pit and did not receive guidance or support.”
Hamilton said Osaka had been “incredibly brave” in taking its position and urged the tennis authorities to reconsider their response.
“It now prays for the powerful and puts them in doubt and makes them think about how they react, because the way they reacted was not good – with the fine,” he said.
“Someone who talked about their personal mental health and then was fined for it – it was not cool.
“They certainly could have handled it better and I hope they will take a deep dive into it and find a way to navigate better in the future. As athletes, we push ourselves to the extreme, we are on the edge and we are only human. “
Expectations for the race
Hamilton lost the lead to the championship of Red Bulls Max Verstappen at the last race in Monaco when the Dutchman won and the Mercedes driver could only finish seventh.
Both men downplayed the importance of Verstapen’s lead by four points after just five races this season.
Although Mercedes struggled for competitiveness in Monaco, Verstappen said he believed their car was still the fastest on most tracks.
“I think they are still on normal tracks ahead of us,” Verstappen said. “But for us so far this season we’ve had a good start compared to other seasons and we just have to keep it up, keep improving, keep bringing new bits to the car all the time to try to improve it, and then we have a very good shot at it.
“So far, it’s very positive to be leading the championship. It’s obviously great to be first, but it’s more important where you end up. [final] race in Abu Dhabi. “
Flexi-wing controversy continues
Mercedes is unhappy that a rule aimed at limiting the use of flexible rear wings – as Red Bull is one of the teams to be used – will not be enforced before after the weekend race in Baku.
They believe that the units that reduce traction by tilting backwards over a certain speed of straight will be a significant advantage on the pit right in Baku, which is the longest flat stretch on the F1 calendar.
Hamilton, who was the first to draw public attention to what he called the “flexible” wing of Red Bull, said he did not want to be drawn further into the controversy.
“No matter what I think, it does not make a difference, so I do not want to make headlines with it,” he said.
“I heard about it, I talked about it, but the fact is that they passed the tests that were given this weekend, so we continue as things are.
“It’s obviously an advantage on equal. It may give good time, but we’ll just try to be the best we can with what we have, and hopefully in the future it’s going to be better in terms of how they measure that kind of thing . “
Mercedes says their rear wing is “stiff”, though Red Bull has pointed out what they say is a flexible front wing on the world champions’ car.