Lewis Hamilton has denied he was responsible for posting a video of himself firing an automatic weapon on Instagram, that attracted considerable criticism.
The video, including the hashtag #shooter, was put on the website on Friday evening, the same day a gunman had been overpowered on a train between Amsterdam and Paris. It has since been taken down.
Hamilton, who is active on social media, regularly posts pictures and videos of himself enjoying his life to the full off the track. In this case he was firing a machine gun at a range during his holiday in Colorado while Formula One was on its summer break. He has a holiday home there and refers to it as the “mega zone”.
After he put his Mercedes on pole for Sunday’s Belgian Grand Prix and when the video had been taken down, he said: “I didn’t post it. I don’t post anything on race weekends, a friend does it for me.” He has previously pointed out that a friend posts on his social media accounts on race weekends.
The video had attracted 33,900 likes on Instagram, but also considerable criticism. Comments included: “Yay! Let’s play with guns. What a responsible message to send out. I’m sure your sponsors just love this! Not cool”; “Disappointed that you promote such stupidity“; “Dont like guns!! Dont like this! Go racing!!; “Disappointing & Unnecessary Lewis, Disappointed that you promote such stupidity”; and “I’d rather you targeted first place mate”.
Although other comments did point out that he was at a firing range, a controlled environment to use a weapon, clearly some had an issue with his position as a role model and Hamilton took the post down on Saturday afternoon. “There never is any good comments on there, to be honest, so it doesn’t really matter,” he said, referring to the internet.
The Mercedes team chief, Toto Wolff, remained on the fence in his reaction to the post. “My opinion is split on a personal level,” he said. “Lewis is a rock star and he is living his life. Then on the other side you need be aware what is happening out there in the world , so I haven’t really made up my mind until now because I literally saw it a couple of minutes ago.”
This article was written by Giles Richards at Spa-Francorchamps, for theguardian.com on Saturday 22nd August 2015 20.08 Europe/Londonguardian.co.uk © Guardian News and Media Limited 2010