On Monday, Osaka announced she will “take some time away from the court” one day after being fined and threatened with harsher sanctions for skipping her mandatory media obligations. Osaka later said her withdrawal from the event was the best decision for her well-being.
Hamilton, who has been outspoken about a range of topics over the past few seasons, including mental health, said Osaka had done the right thing.
“I think she’s incredibly brave and I applaud her for her bravery because it’s now asking those in power… putting them in question and making them have to think about how they react,” he said ahead of Sunday’s Azerbaijan Grand Prix.
“I think 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 have handled it better.
“I hope they take a deep dive into it 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.”
When asked if he had any advice for her, Hamilton said: “I wouldn’t say I have advice for her.
“She’s an incredible athlete and human being and her activisim has been just so impactful. At such a young age there’s so much weight on her shoulders, it’s inevitable… the fact is, when you’re young you’re thrown into the limelight and into the spotlight and it weighs heavily on you.
“The thing is most of us are not prepared. I remember when I got to Formula One and the [McLaren] 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. You kind of learn through mistakes.
“It’s incredibly nerve-wracking, especially when you have all good intentions but people take advantage of it.”
Hamilton, who is second behind Max Verstappen in F1’s championship, said he still sometimes struggles with the media in his 15th season in motor racing’s premier category.
I’ve learned the hard way and made many a mistake and I still do today. It can be daunting, still, standing behind a camera. It’s not the easiest. Particularly if you’re an introvert and you do struggle to be under those sorts of pressures. Some people are less comfortable with it than others. I’ve learned over my time here, and I’m trying to continue to learn how I engage.
“When I was young I was thrown into the pit and I wasn’t given any guidance or support. What I do know is when youngsters are coming in, they’re facing the same thing as I did. And I don’t necessarily know if that’s the best for them. I think we need to be supporting more. It shouldn’t be a case where you’re pressured. There are scenarios where, for example with Naomi’s scenario, she didn’t feel comfortable for her own personal health not to do something and the backlash is ridiculous.
“People are not taking into account that she’s a human being and she’s saying that [she’s] not well enough to do this right now. I think that need to be really looked into and how people react to that and rather be supportive and uplifting to her.”
The Azerbaijan Grand Prix will be live on ESPN at 7.55AM on Sunday, June 6.