Hamilton sports Progress Pride helmet at Qatar GP

Nov 19 (Reuters) - Seven-times Formula One world champion Lewis Hamilton wore a rainbow-coloured helmet in Qatar Grand Prix practice on Friday, a day after speaking out about equal rights and increasing scrutiny on some of the countries the sport visited.

Gay sex is punishable by jail in Qatar, as in many Muslim-majority countries.

The conservative Gulf Arab state is hosting a Formula One grand prix for the first time this weekend and has signed a 10-year contract from 2023.

Hamilton's helmet featured the words "We Stand Together" on the back and reflected the colours of the Progress Pride flag with a chevron to represent the intersex community as well as LGBTQ+.

"This is what we mean when we talk about using your platform for good and carrying your values with you," said Racing Pride co-founder Richard Morris on Twitter.

"The symbolism of this, in one of the world’s most dangerous regions for LGBTQ+ people, is enormously powerful. I can’t even express my admiration for Lewis today."

In July Hamilton spoke out against Hungary's anti-LGBTQ+ legislation ahead of the country's grand prix and urged voters to protect rights by rejecting it in a coming referendum.

The sport's most successful driver of all time, with a record 101 wins, has used his platform to promote diversity and campaign for human rights.

The title contender told reporters at the Losail circuit on Thursday that while it was not up to the drivers where they raced, he was aware of the situation.

"I do feel that there are issues in these places that we are going to, as there are around the world, but of course (this) seems to be deemed as one of the worst in this part of the world," said the Briton.

"I do think as these sports go to these places they are duty bound to raise awareness for these issues and these places need scrutiny and need the media to speak about these things. Equal rights is a serious issue.

"However I am aware that in this place they are trying to make steps and it can't change overnight."

Qatar, preparing to host the 2022 soccer World Cup, has come under particular fire for labour conditions and the treatment of migrant workers. read more

The final two races of the Formula One season are in Saudi Arabia and Abu Dhabi. Bahrain also hosted a race earlier in the year.

Reporting by Alan Baldwin in London, editing by Pritha Sarkar and Ken Ferris

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