Lewis Hamilton has launched a research project called The Hamilton Commission aimed at improving diversity in the motorsport industry – with F1’s world champion saying that “the time for platitudes and token gestures is over”.
Writing at length in a column for The Sunday Times in which Hamilton explained why he spoke out about the death of George Floyd in the United States and has posted powerfully on social media in support of the Black Lives Matter movement, the six-time champion said he wanted to “channel my energy, influence and investment to create a more inclusive world” – with education as the starting point.
“Despite my success in the sport, the institutional barriers that have kept F1 highly exclusive persist,” wrote Hamilton in the column.
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“It is not enough to point to me, or to a single new black hire, as a meaningful example of progress. Thousands of people are employed across this industry and that group needs to be more representative of society.
“For this reason, I have been working with the Royal Academy of Engineering to create The Hamilton Commission, a research partnership dedicated to exploring how motorsport can be used as a vehicle to engage more young people from black backgrounds with Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) subjects and, ultimately, employ them on our teams or in other engineering sectors.”Hamilton, who also recently became an ambassador for the UN’s Global Goal for Education, expressed hope that the new commission would drive “real, tangible and measurable change”.
“When I look back in 20 years, I want to see the sport that gave a shy, working-class black kid from Stevenage so much opportunity, become as diverse as the complex and multicultural world we live in,” added Hamilton.
Both Hamilton’s Mercedes team and F1 itself have publicly backed Hamilton for speaking out for diversity and against racism. Ross Brawn, F1’s managing director of motorsports, recently told Sky Sports that the sport was working on grassroots projects to improve inclusion in motorsport.
Hamilton: Why I have spoken out
Hamilton said the events in Minneapolis have “led to a global awakening to the systemic racism, witnessed and experienced by every person of colour across the world, and something that is only too familiar to me”.
Writing about his experiences of racist abuse, Hamilton said that “injustice prevails when you remain neutral”. He added that it “broke my heart” when he saw people he respected not speaking out in recent weeks.
Hamilton said: “I’m used to being one of very few people of colour on my teams and, more than that, I’m used to the idea that no one will speak up for me when I face racism, because no one personally feels or understands my experience. Most of the time, they don’t even see it and if they do, they let their fear of saying the wrong thing get in the way.
“The unchanged make-up of the F1 community throughout my career makes it feel like only a certain type of person is truly welcome in this sport, one who looks a certain way, comes from a certain background, fits a particular mould and plays by certain unwritten rules. Even now, the media ask me different questions than they do my competitors and make accusations directly and indirectly – you’re not British enough, not humble enough, not loved enough by the public.”