PARIS • Even after deleting the pro-vegan post that started the trouble, Mercedes driver Lewis Hamilton continued to be the centre of debate on social media yesterday.
The five-time Formula One world champion declared on Instagram on Wednesday that he worried about the "extinction of our race" if humans keep eating animals. "I'm sad right now with the thought of where this world is going," wrote the 34-year-old, whose profile includes the line "Spread love and God above all".
If a long list of previous controversies are any indication, the social media furore around his post - with many strongly supportive and many violently opposed - is unlikely to deflect the Briton.
Others in F1 were, perhaps understandably, reluctant to wade into a debate on the environment, though former world champion Damon Hill posted a balanced response.
"Lewis will get no end of flak for this, being a jet-setting F1 star. We are all hypocritical to greater or lesser degrees," wrote Hill, 59, now a pundit. "But if people like him don't speak out, then we all carry on in the same vein and don't even try to change.
"It's not that bad, eating carrots."
Hamilton has gotten used to receiving flak in recent years. Last year, he backed the return of grid girls at the Monaco Grand Prix by sharing a photo from another Instagram user showing five buxom grid girls, and adding ,"Thank you Jesus".
He deleted the post after drawing negative responses.
During Christmas in 2017, he posted a video showing his young nephew sporting a blue and pink dress as they visited Disneyland. Their conversation ended with Hamilton shouting, "Boys don't wear princess dresses!" which led to the youngster covering his ears. He took the post down, describing his outburst as a "lapse of judgment".
Before the 2016 Japanese GP, he used Snapchat during an official press conference. He posted bunny-ear photos, with the caption: "This s*** is killing me." British tabloids let rip, labelling him "Snap-Prat" and the "Berk in the Merc" - slang terms for "fool".
In November 2015, he drew the ire of animal rights groups for posts that he felt expressed his love of cute, furry animals.
The Facebook photos showed him cuddling a jaguar cub and a newborn lion at the Black Jaguar White Tiger Foundation in Mexico, with hashtags including #cutestthingever and #animallover.
A video also showed him creeping up on a larger tiger and scaring it.
The director of People for the Ethical Treatment Of Animals, Elisa Allen, released a statement saying: "Seeing big cats used for photo ops promotes the idea that wild animals are here for human amusement."
Hamilton's Instagram post on Wednesday came after last weekend's Japanese GP, where he was third behind teammate Valtteri Bottas and Ferrari's Sebastian Vettel.
But he is on course for a sixth world title, leading Bottas (274) by 64 points with four races left.
While he was in Japan, he also used social media to promote environmental issues, including clips on dolphin hunters while urging people not to watch dolphin shows.
AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE, REUTERS