Lewis Hamilton has been criticised over a since deleted social media post, with the Formula One world champion accused of being a “hypocrite”.
Hamilton spoke out about the “messed up” state of the planet on Tuesday and said his life had no meaning until he went vegan.
In a now deleted story on Instagram, where he has more than 13 million followers, the Mercedes driver triggered initial concern when he started a series of posts by saying he felt like "giving up on everything”.
"Why bother when the world is such a mess and people don't seem to care," said the 34-year-old Briton, who can seal his sixth title as early as next week in Mexico, without immediately stating what he was referring to.
The Briton said he was worried about the "extinction of our race" if humans keep eating animals.
Lewis Hamilton shared an emotional message on Instagram.— ESPN F1 (@ESPNF1) October 15, 2019
What could he be referring to? 😶 pic.twitter.com/rpkUY5UHO7
Despite the good intentions and powerful message from Hamilton's post, the 34-year-old has copped a wave of backlash for his apparent concern for the environment.
Although Hamilton did sell his private jet this year, critics have pointed to his fleet of luxury cars and frequent plane trips around the world as examples of his hypocrisy.
And for good measure, they fly tons and tons of their fancy machinery all around the world so they can burn rubber and petrol in different countries. Hamilton really is a hypocrite.— John Keily 🐑 (@JohnKeily1) October 16, 2019
Private or not, he still travels around the world as part of an industry that has no purpose other than entertainment. If he was serious about the climate, he’d quit driving and boycot all forms of motorsport. But that would be inconvenient.— Jeff (@TwitchNF6) October 16, 2019
I’ve got nothing against Lewis, I’m a fan. I just have no time for celebrities who jump on this climate hysteria bandwagon, telling those with the least that we should have less while they live a life of extravagance.— Jeff (@TwitchNF6) October 16, 2019
Lol, ok. And him selling his private jet somehow offsets the fact he’s an F1 driver who globe trots arounds the world, using one-time use pirelli tires, spokesperson for Petronas Oil.— Jeff (@TwitchNF6) October 16, 2019
Selling his jet does nothing to offset the emissions he created while owning the jet.
Also how much energy , petrol , rubber and waste is consumed during an F1 race @LewisHamilton ?— vancanman (@VPara) October 16, 2019
Are you serious mate??!!?? You burn more on your figure of 8 once than I ever burned going to BOOTHS for the last 32 years!!! Check yourself!!!— Vicky Entwistle (@VickyEntwistle) October 16, 2019
Others in Formula One were, perhaps understandably, reluctant to wade into a debate on the environment, though one former world champion posted a response that saw both sides.
"Lewis will get no end of flack for this, being a jet setting F1 star. We are all hypocritical to greater or lesser degrees," wrote Damon Hill, 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. Its not that bad, eating carrots #f1 #carrots"
Hamilton no stranger to social media backlash
In November 2015, Hamilton drew the ire of animals rights groups for posts on Twitter and Facebook that he felt expressed his love of cute, furry animals.
The Facebook photos showed him cuddling a jaguar cub and a new-born lion at the Black Jaguar White Tiger Foundation in Mexico, with hashtags including #cutestthingever and #animallover. A Twitter video showed him creeping up on a larger tiger and scaring it.
The posts drew ferocious criticism on social media.
The director of People for the Ethical Treatment Of Animals (PETA), Elisa Allen, released a long statement that started: "Seeing big cats used for photo ops promotes the idea that wild animals are here for human amusement."
In 2011, complaining on the BBC that he was being victimised by stewards, Hamilton jokingly borrowed a line from British comedian Sacha Baron Cohen: "Maybe it's because I'm black, I don't know. That's what Ali G says..."
F1 ace backs controversial grid girls
Hamilton had to write a letter of apology to Jean Todt, the president of the governing body of motor sports.
In 2018, Hamilton backed the return of grid girls at that year's Monaco Grand Prix by posting a grab from another Instagram user showing five buxom grid girls, and adding "Thank you Jesus".
That drew the ire not only of feminists but also of Christians. Hamilton, whose Instagram self-description contains the line "Spread LOVE and God above all", deleted the post.
Before the 2016 Japanese Grand Prix, he switched apps and got in trouble for using Snapchat during an official press conference. He posted bunny-ear photos, with the caption: "This is s---- killing me."
British tabloids let rip, labelling Hamilton "Snap-Prat" and the "Berk in the Merc" -- slang terms for "fool".
Hamilton responded by saying journalists had been "disrespectful" and walking out on a media event.
He also provoked contrasting reactions with two posts about princesses in 2017.
At Christmas, Hamilton posted a video showing his young nephew sporting a blue and pink dress as they visited Disneyland.
"I'm so sad right now. Look at my nephew," the British driver wrote. The video contains an exchange which ends with Hamilton shouting: "Boys don't wear princess dresses" which led to the youngster covering his ears.
Hamilton took the post down, describing his outburst as a "lapse of judgement". He also designed a kilt in collaboration with Tommy Hilfiger and wore it in a fashion shoot for GQ, telling the magazine "I want to make amends". GQ used that line in a promotional Instagram post.
Earlier that year, he paid tribute to Princess Diana, who had died 20 years earlier, by posting a poem he had written, "England's Rose", on Instagram.
The poem may have lacked literary merit and resembled Elton John's "Candle in the Wind", but this time many on social media gushed over it.
In a separate tribute on Twitter, Hamilton acknowledged the anniversary with a quote often attributed to the Princess. "I don't go by the rule book," he wrote. "I lead from the heart, not the head."