Why Formula One star Lewis Hamilton matters

Written by Shashank Nair

Updated: November 17, 2020 8:18:39 am

Lewis Hamilton has received his seventh F1 title. (Reuters)

Lewis Hamilton equalled Michael Schumacher’s document of seven titles in Formula One to enter the pantheon of greats on Sunday. Hamilton matches up, and in some instances, even exceeds Schumacher by way of achievements on the monitor. But if there may be one area the place Hamilton has no competitors, it’s the work he has performed by way of political engagement in a sport that has not often engaged with life outdoors of its bubble of races, engineers, mechanics, machines and model constructing.

Diversity in Formula One

Formula One is a sport that has traditionally favoured groups and drivers with the deepest pockets. The economics of the game enable for less than a choose few to enter it. Before he started his dominance within the sport, Lewis Hamilton’s id amongst a bigger public viewers was that of being the primary ever black race automobile driver in Formula One. Hamilton, who got here from a poor British household and whose dad and mom needed to really wrestle for his profession in racing to develop into a actuality, is the most important anomaly in the way in which Formula One has at all times been run. It is due to this fact no shock that the person who has virtually no enterprise being across the sport, has been its largest campaigner for bringing about variety within the sport.

Hamilton’s name for variety through the years hasn’t simply been about there being extra race automobile drivers of various ethnicity. In an interview as soon as, Hamilton mentioned, “There really is the most minimal diversity within this sport and I really want to be a part of shifting that, working in cooperation with Formula One and the FIA. I don’t know why there’s not enough university students, engineers, mechanics and even media coming through from more diverse backgrounds.”
The response to his name for motion was perfunctory at finest. Formula One boss Corey Chase promised to open up newer avenues for drivers of color to enter the game. But the general message of hiring folks of color was misplaced among the many noise. That was till Hamilton this yr ramped up his efforts to result in modifications in F1 because the Black Lives Matters motion grew.

Mercedes modifications colors

One of essentially the most recognisable sports activities stars on this planet and the best driver within the sport (by way of variety of wins) not solely wore a Black Lives Matter T-shirt and took a knee – he additionally bought different drivers to hitch – but additionally bought his German staff, Mercedes, to hitch the marketing campaign. The success that each Mercedes and Hamilton supplied one another helped the Black Lives Matter motion acquire visibility in Formula One. And with Mercedes not desirous to let go of their prize driver to different groups, made them extra able to go together with the modifications that the Brit was wanting the staff to implement. It led to Mercedes racing in 2020 with an all-black livery as an alternative of their customary silver, in a bid to align themselves with the Black Lives Matter motion. For a staff with automobiles painted silver and black for many years and referred to as the ‘Silver Arrows’, going all-Black, together with racing fits and uniforms for the mechanics and engineers, was a major step.

Lewis Hamilton Lewis Hamilton, the game’s solely Black competitor, has beforehand worn a “Black Lives Matter” T-shirt in comparable pre-race gestures in opposition to racism. (Reuters)

“We will not shy away from our weaknesses in this area, nor from the progress we must still make; our livery is our public pledge to take positive action. We intend to find and attract the very best talents from the broadest possible range of backgrounds, and to create credible pathways for them to reach our sport, in order to build a stronger and more diverse team in the future,” mentioned Mercedes boss Toto Wolff earlier within the yr, reiterating the staff’s backing of Hamilton’s political stand. As he continued to put on BLM t-shirts, helmets and took a knee as an indication of protest, Mercedes continued to again him.

F1’s lukewarm response

Despite his staff backing his stance on being vocal concerning the Black Lives Matters motion, the response from F1’s stakeholders was not as enthusiastic. Hamilton criticised F1’s response to BLM by saying that it was too rushed and that the organisation was not seeking to make any precise, structural change. “We’ve said things and there’s been statements released and we’ve made gestures such as kneeling but we’ve not changed anything,” Hamilton mentioned based on a BBC report. “Except for perhaps some of our awareness.” This made clear when Hamilton continued to put on BLM t-shirts and speak concerning the motion even after the season opener in Austria, although F1 seemed that it was to be a one-time perfunctory present of assist. Formula One had allotted time earlier than the season opener for drivers to point out assist for the anti-racism motion however didn’t do the identical for the second and third rounds.

Convincing his friends

The largest battle for Hamilton in bringing a couple of change in Formula One continues to be his personal friends, that’s, the drivers. Last July, Hamilton criticised French driver Romain Grosjean’s (who’s a director of the Grand Prix Drivers’ Association) response to the BLM motion and that he believed the Frenchman didn’t perceive the gravity of the state of affairs. Six drivers didn’t take a knee on the season opener in Austria. But nobody went so far as former Russian rival Vitaly Petrov, who accused Hamilton of being ‘overzealous’ and that the 35-year outdated’s political stance within the area of F1 was ‘too much’. He then went on to check the Hamilton’s BLM stance akin to ‘a gay individual flying a rainbow flag asking everyone else to become gay’. Despite these feedback, Petrov was invited by Formula One to be a racing steward on the Portuguese Grand Prix.

Motorsport nice Mario Andretti went so far as calling him ‘militant’. In response, Hamilton mentioned the feedback have been ‘disappointing’.

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