Editor’s note: this article was first published on 25 September 2020 and has been updated for accuracy and comprehensiveness.
Fill Me In
British six-time Formula One world champion Lewis Hamilton vows to grow the number of black people in the sport, as well as tackle the issues that causes the lack of diversity at all levels in motor racing.
What Hamilton is doing
Hamilton announced on Thursday (24 September) a 14-member Hamilton Commission that will be discussing race issues and working with organisations to involve more black people in the sport.
Hamilton is still the only black driver in Formula One and was the first person-of-colour to win a motor race 121 years after motor racing had been established. Red Bull’s British-born Thai Alexander Albon is the only other non-white competitor of the sport.
The commission will not just focus on getting BIPOC (black, indigenous, and people-of-colour) representation in the competition. Hamilton also wants to see more diversity across the board of motor racing.
“In F1, our teams are much bigger than the athletes that front them, but representation is insufficient across every skillset – from the garage to the engineers in the factories and design departments,” he said.
“I’m proud to be working with the Royal Academy of Engineering and our incredible board of commissioners to identify the barriers facing young black people to take up STEM (science, technology, engineering and maths) careers in motorsport.”
Black Lives Matter for Hamilton
Formula One has been mostly white-centric until Hamilton first participated in 2007 as the competition’s first and still only black driver. Hamilton has been open about the racist abuse he has faced from Formula One fans, even as a child and teenager in junior racing.
Beyond heckling from racist spectators of the sport, Hamilton’s treatment by the media and critics has also been deemed racist, when compared to interviews done with fellow British driver, Jenson Button.
The Hamilton Commission is just one way Hamilton hopes brings change to the larger racial movement as a whole. “We are dedicated to this cause and, together, we will make a change,” he said.
Hamilton has also been vocal about his support for the Black Lives Matter (BLM) movement, which originated in the United States (US). Hamilton led fellow drivers in taking the knee this racing season following the death of George Floyd, who was killed by an act of police brutality.
His Mercedes team have also painted their cars black instead of their trademark silver as a commitment to greater diversity and inclusion.
Sports and BLM elsewhere
US sports figures who have been supporting the BLM movement on Wednesday publicly denounced charges filed in the shooting death of Breonna Taylor.
Taylor, an emergency room technician, was shot dead in her own apartment by three policemen executing a search warrant in the middle of the night. A grand jury in Louisville, Kentucky charged detective Brett Hankison with “wanton endangerment” over shots fired into neighbouring apartments, but none of the officers were charged in direct connection to Taylor’s death.
Various basketballers have balked at the outcome of the charges. “Something was done, but it wasn’t enough. Most guys thought it was definitely not enough,” Los Angeles Lakers guard Danny Green told reporters.
Golden State Warriors coach Steve Kerr also commented that the jury outcome was “demoralising and discouraging”. “I just keep thinking about the generation of American kids of any colour. Is this way the way we want to raise them? Is this the country we want to live in? There’s just so much violence and it’s demoralising when we can’t be accountable or hold anyone to account for it,” he said.
The BLM movement has impacted the National Basketball Association (NBA) returning to play during the COVID-19 pandemic. Playoffs were halted for three days after Milwaukee Bucks players refused to play after hearing about the police shooting of Jacob Blake in Wisconsin. Their move was supported by other teams in the league as well.
Update in progression in diversity for Hamilton
Six-time Formula 1 world champion, Lewis Hamilton, is launching his own team in the new all-electric off-road series – the X44 Extreme E team.
At the launch of his new X44 Extreme E team for the electric off-road circuit, Hamilton also spoke about the progression of his diversity campaign. Hamilton said that there will be “no quick fix” to improve diversity and inclusivity in motorsport, but he is optimistic that his X44 Extreme E team can have a positive impact.
Hamilton is planning to use his X44 team to “address the inequalities that are along the career pathway for many people”.
In a press conference, Hamilton said that they were still in the early stages and that there is “a lot of work going on in the background”.
“Providing opportunities for those from a more diverse background in naturally a priority for us and we’re currently exploring the best ways in order to do that. But I think it’s not a quick fix for the motor racing industry to move into a more inclusive direction.”
Hamilton added that he was strongly in favour of Extreme E’s policy, which stipulates one male and one female driver per team. “I love that Extreme E is allowing us to have two drivers, a male and a female, and you’ll see that transcend down through the small team that we have and that’s a key focus for us,” he said.