Fri | Aug 7, 2020

Hamilton calls out rivals for silence on racism

Published:Friday | July 3, 2020 | 12:22 AM
Mercedes technicians work around Lewis Hamilton’s car at the Red Bull Ring racetrack in Spielberg, Austria, yesterday.
Mercedes technicians work around Lewis Hamilton’s car at the Red Bull Ring racetrack in Spielberg, Austria, yesterday.

SPIELBERG, Austria (AP):

Formula One (F1) champion Lewis Hamilton called out rival teams yesterday for not doing enough to combat racism and said that the sport still needed to push for more diversity.

Hamilton has spoken widely about racism in recent weeks following the killing of George Floyd – a handcuffed and unarmed black man – by a police officer in Minneapolis, Minnesota, in May.

And Hamilton’s Mercedes team will be competing in an all-black car – instead of the usual silver – as a statement against racism when the season starts on Sunday in Austria.

But Hamilton, the only black driver in F1, said he’d like to hear more from other teams – and criticised some sports figures for only jumping on social-media bandwagons instead of pushing for real change.

“There are a lot of people that just take a moment to post ‘Blackout Tuesday’ (on social networks), but they’re not really doing much. I’ve definitely not heard anything from any of the other teams, as far as I’m aware,” Hamilton said. “I won’t stop pushing until we really see change. Seeing one person of colour added to the paddock is not diversity, so we’ve really got to dig deep.”

Hamilton attended a Black Lives Matter march in London recently and is setting up a commission to increase diversity in motorsport.

NEW INITIATIVE

F1 launched an initiative aimed at tackling racism and encouraging more diversity within the series, with F1 chairman Chase Carey pledging US$1 million (J$139 million) of his own money toward a fund.

“It’s positive to see that people are reacting, and I do want to see people being more proactive,” Hamilton said. “I think Formula One has been great. I’ve spent a lot of time on the phone with them, doing Zoom calls talking about their plans and how we can move forward, united.”

F1 drivers are discussing whether to take the knee together on the grid before Sunday’s race in support of the Black Lives Matter movement, as footballers have been doing.

“We haven’t all spoken; I’m sure we will. It’s not something that’s been at the top of my mind, in that I’ve been asked the question multiple times. It’s not really been a priority for me to come and kneel at the start line,” Hamilton said. “We’ll see Sunday. I think whatever we do, we’ll try to do it united. I think it’s really important that we remain united, or that we become united, I would say, in this sport.”

Hamilton hopes his commission finds the root cause of why he’s still the only black F1 driver.

“It is an expensive sport, and I think that’s definitely an underlying factor. The truth is that the opportunity is not the same, not only from the drivers’ point of view but also the engineers’,” he said. “I’ve been working with Mercedes since I was 13. I’ve also been in Formula One for 14 years, and I’ve hardly seen any change. That upsets me.”