Lewis Hamilton wants set to leave a legacy both on and off the track
London - Lewis Hamilton is ready to further rewrite the Formula One record books, but he also wants to leave a lasting legacy off the track.
Racing in a black silver arrow, in a black racing suit in the 2020 season, which starts belatedly in Austria on the weekend, is testimony that his engagement against discrimination and racism is being heard.
"We want to build a legacy that goes beyond sport," Hamilton said as the new livery was unveiled earlier in the week.
"If we can be the leaders and can start building more diversity within our own business, it will send such a strong message and give others the confidence to begin a dialogue about how they can implement change."
Hamilton is getting more and more involved in social issues, and is an important voice on his social media channels, with more than 17 million followers on Instagram and 5.7 million on Twitter.
The Black Lives Matter movement in the wake of the death of George Floyd in police custody in the United States has only strengthened his stance.
"I just thought what an iconic role model he is by saying the things he believes in," Hamilton's father Anthony has said in admiration of his son, who has been harassed by classmates and on race tracks in the past.
The 35-year-old is forming the Hamilton Commission, a research partnership with the Royal Academy of Engineering, dedicated to exploring how motorsport can be used to engage more young people from Black backgrounds.
Hamilton has said he has been subject to racism in his career and that some soul-searching process has started in Formula One, with the sport to set up a task force and Mercedes also pledging more diversity.
"For 2020, we have chosen to race in an all-black base livery as a public pledge to improve the diversity of our team - and a clear statement that we stand against racism and all forms of discrimination," Mercedes said.
F1 boss Chase Carey said: "We want to ensure we give people from all backgrounds the best chances to work in Formula 1 regardless of their gender, ethnicity, sexual orientation, or physical abilities."
Hamilton will welcome any improvement but at the same time he has also posted videos showing him getting in shape for the season which starts almost four months late owing to the coronavirus crisis.
Chasing new F1 records
The title holder will be setting his sights on equalling Michael Schumacher's record seven world titles, and can also top him in grands prix wins, as he is just seven behind Schumacher's 91 top spots.
Part of the success secret seems to be that Mercedes is allowing him to take part in many other activities off the track, be it his fashion line, music, and jet-setting between races, apart from his social engagement.
"He functions best when you give him the freedom to follow his passion," Mercedes motorsport chief Toto Wolff has said on several occasions in explanation why his star driver is given all this leeway in a normally tightly controlled sport.
Wolff has also said: "One day he's going to stop his career, with multiple records, and people will say he was the greatest driver on the planet and we were witnesses of that journey."
How long the relationship with Mercedes continues remains to be seen as Hamilton's contract (and that of team-mate Valtteri Bottas) end after the season. Wolff has said renewal talks would only start once racing had begun.
Mercedes may face a difficult start as the Austrian track for the first two events and the following one in Hungary are not the team's favourite.
But before Hamilton aims to reach the chequered flag first in the car with "end racism" on its halo he also wants to convince the other drivers to take a knee before the start of the race - a gesture started by American Footballer Colin Kaepernick as a protest against racism and police brutality.
"It's so important that we seize this moment," Hamilton said in reference to the fight for more diversity - which could however also easily apply to his quest for greatness on the track.dpa