FILE PHOTO: Formula One F1 - Australian Grand Prix
FILE PHOTO: Formula One F1 - Australian Grand Prix

I've fought racism all my life: Lewis launches commission to make F1 more diverse

By Jonathan McEvoy Time of article published Jun 22, 2020

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London - Lewis Hamilton has promised to create his own commission to help increase black participation in Formula One.

The six-time world champion also opened up about his "deep pain, anguish and frustration" at watching George Floyd’s killing last month, which stirred recollections of the racist abuse he suffered on his journey from Stevenage to the top of motor racing.

Those emotions led him to make the most impassioned comments of his career in a series of Instagram posts over recent weeks. "For some of those who saw my social media, it may be hard to understand why I reacted the way I did," said Hamilton, 35, who participated in a Black Lives Matter march in London recently.

"From the outside looking in, the life of an unintended American martyr in the city of Minneapolis, a place I’ve never visited, has nothing to do with me.

"But an all-too-common display of police brutality in the US has led to a global awakening of the systemic racism witnessed and experienced by every person of colour across the world, and something that is only too familiar to me. In the UK, it might be less about police brutality and more about the implicit bias in our systems or things that society does to let us know we’re different.

"It’s telling black women they’re too confident, treating black men like a threat, or asking us to change our natural appearance to look more 'professional'.

"The deadly complicity in the three officers who watched on in silence as Floyd’s life was extinguished by their colleague brought to light so much of the anger I thought I’d suppressed."

Hamilton’s father, Anthony, is black and mother, Carmen, is white. Struggling for funds as Lewis started out in karting, his dad took on three jobs to allow his promising boy to continue.

A few years later, when Lewis was 13, McLaren boss Ron Dennis stepped in as his principal sponsor. Now Hamilton, still F1’s only black driver, is Britain’s richest sportsman with a fortune estimated at £224 million (R4.8bn).

He said: "I’ve been fighting the stigma of racism throughout my racing career - from kids throwing things at me while I was karting to being taunted by fans in black face at a 2007 grand prix, one of my first F1 races.

"The unchanged make-up of the F1 community throughout my career makes it feel like only a certain type of person is truly welcome in this sport.

"Even now the media ask me different questions from those they ask my competitors and make accusations directly and indirectly - you’re not British enough, not humble enough, not loved enough by the public. Being the first black anything is a proud and lonely walk."

Sportsmail understands Hamilton recently made his racism concerns known to F1 bosses and, as reported here last week, will "take a knee" when the season restarts in Austria during the first weekend of July.

Prior to that, Formula One’s owner Liberty Media will set out its latest proposals aimed at improving the sport’s racial imbalance, possibly as soon as today.

Few members of Hamilton’s Mercedes team are black, a disparity the manufacturer have indicated they will set out plans to redress in the coming days.

Writing in the Sunday Times, Hamilton turned his attention to education, calling it the "leveller, the path to opportunity".

"I have been working with the Royal Academy of Engineers to create The Hamilton Commission," he said. "This is a research partnership dedicated to exploring how motorsport can be used as a vehicle to engage more young people from black backgrounds with science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) subjects and, ultimately, employ them on our teams or in other engineering sectors.

"This will not be arm’s length research. We want to hear from the young people and graduates who deal with these challenges every day. We want to bring in leaders from policy and business who are committed to the activation of research recommendations. I hope that The Hamilton Commission enables real, tangible and measurable change.

"When I look back in 20 years, I want to see the sport that gave a shy, working-class black kid from Stevenage so much opportunity, become as diverse as the complex and multicultural world we live in."

Daily Mail

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