MANAMA – Lewis Hamilton said on Thursday said it was "crazy" that racism still exists in sport as he followed his tweet about the "despicable" treatment suffered by England's footballers in Montenegro with a plea for stricter action against the scourge.
Speaking ahead of this weekend's Bahrain Grand Prix, the five-time Formula One world champion, who is the only black driver in the sport, made clear that families and people from all walks of life can make a stand against racism.
"People just need to stand up to it more," he told reporters at the Bahrain International Circuit.
"It's not only to (sports) players, it's crazy to think that in this time in the world it's still really, really prominent," he said. "It's really there all around the world. Racism is still a real issue, which is sad to see."
"I just remember being at school when I was younger and people just got a slap on the hand for it -- it's just kind of let slide.
"I don't think it should happen anywhere. I think action should be taken and people should be a lot stricter with it. I don't have an answer exactly how it is, but it starts from the parents passing on to kids and then it continues."
The British driver, who suffered racist abuse in 2008 during a test session in Spain, said he felt Formula One was severely lacking in diversity.
Considering his position as a role model with a large following on social media, the Mercedes driver added: "I don't feel like I have a responsibility as such. I definitely feel that I'm in a privileged position that I do happen to have quite an audience, that's quite a lot of power, particularly with social media.
"There are things I see all the time... there's a lot of stuff that I don't post that I want to post. You have to keep it balanced as I have old followers and young followers and choosing what you do show and don't show, but there's so many issues around the world today.
"There are some things I'm able to put on social media that people are able to react to and create conversation and I think many people with the following that I have and much more have a lot of power in making it a talking point and creating an opinion and, hopefully, steering change."
The 34-year-old Englishman, meanwhile, dismissed suggestions that he had slowed and deliberately held up rival Sebastian Vettel of Ferrari during the season-opening Australian Grand Prix.
Vettel was reported to have said that Hamilton slowed because he was "probably bored and not happy because he lost the start."
Hamilton responded by saying: "I've never planned to hold anybody up. I was just doing my own race.
"It's easy to point blame at other people in moments when things don't work so well, so I'm sure he probably has a different opinion now. It doesn't really make a difference to me, I just focused on my job."
Hamilton, who finished behind Mercedes team-mate Valtteri Bottas said he had suffered from damage to the floor of his car and tyre wear.AFP