‘First black Formula One driver…’

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Inevitably enough, no sooner has Lewis Hamilton’s name been linked with an imminent to switch to Formula One than the stories hailing the ‘first black Formula One driver’ have cropped up.

If anyone thinks that Hamilton’s ethnicity has anything to do with how he has gotten where he is, they have obviously never witnessed his prodigious speed. At the Nurburgring, Silverstone and Istanbul Park in GP2 this year he tore the field to shreds.

F1 anoraks will already have an inlking where I’m heading with this one: Hamilton is not the first black person to have driven a Formula One car. That unique place in F1 history belongs to American William Theodore Ribbs Jnr, better known as Willy T. Ribbs.

He entered the Formula One history books in January 1986 when he tested for Brabham-BMW at Estoril, Portugal, back when the team was owned by Bernie Ecclestone. It did not lead to a full-time drive, which Hamilton is likely to claim at McLaren if not for next year, then very soon.

He went on to race in CART, NASCAR (after an earlier foray into the sport which ended in his sacking) and the Indy Racing League. Sadly during his first CART season in 1990 he was involved in an collision at the Vancouver street circuit in which a marshall was killed. He retired from motor sport in 2000.

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Keith Collantine
Lifelong motor sport fan Keith set up RaceFans in 2005 - when it was originally called F1 Fanatic. Having previously worked as a motoring...

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33 comments on “‘First black Formula One driver…’”

  1. Lews Hamilton is about as Black as Hally Berry who by the way parades around on the ‘black’ band wagon! when her mother is clearly of the white persuasion!
    Let’s get one thing quite clear, If you have 2 parents (biological) who are ‘Black’ then you are ‘Black’!
    If you have 2 parents (biological) who are ‘white’ then you are ‘white’
    If you have mixed race parents (biological) then you are MIXED! you are nether one or the other!

    1. And you very right, infact you a re MULATTO (or MULATO). It is in the Webster dictionary. Obama is NOT black, but a Mulatto like Maria Carah, Halle Berry, Alicia keys and various other personalities.

  2. Back in the days of slavery a law was past that if you had 1/10th ethnicity in your blood then you were black this was to stop the children of slave women who were taken by their masters from staking a claim to riches…just a brief history lesson…It makes a refeshing change to see a person of colour in F1 and black , white ,red or pink I will be supporting Lewis all the way as I have watched him raise in the ranks from a young lad, he is a great British talent.

    1. Slavery is over, therefore that percentage nowadays is over. Update your thinking please. Incidently black is a color just as white, moreover if you take a white light and you send it across a prism you see all the other color of mother nature except black. :-). color a paper disk and color it in slices with all colors, except black. spin it very fast the multicolor paper will become suddenly ……white! keep up with the right century please.

  3. A.Aldridge argument that If you have 2 parents (biological) who are ‘Black’ then you are ‘Black’ or If you have 2 parents (biological) who are ‘white’ then you are ‘white’ or If you have mixed race parents (biological) then you are MIXED! you are nether one or the other!

    I dont agree. If you have mixed parents, you are how you feel and how you are culturally raised. In my case – NZ Maori (you would consider this ‘Black’) and an Australian mother (white) but I am consider myself a NZ Maori – speaking the language and raising my children and now grandson in the Maori culture. This is how I feel and this is what I am.

    If he considers himself ‘Black’ then that is what he is. No one else has the right to call him anything else.

    And good luck to him!

    1. good reasoning that “formula” doesn’t work for everyone, therefore that reasoning if faulty!. If I were French , but I feel like being a German, am I German? NO, you are not!. You are still a French that wants to feel a German. :-)
      In your case you are a mulato. Incidently Aborigens have a dark skin, however technically they are classifified a White people. They have a nose bone, wavy hair, beards just like whites. British people would classified black anything that hadn’t pale skin like theirs. A wale, a dolphin are mammals like us or fish? Well they are not considered as fish at all but mammals like us, just like a bat! :-)

  4. Not sure which reality you exist in A Aldridge but unfortunately in world artske is right. As long as you have that drop of black blood in you you are considered black as you are too tainted to be white and ‘mixed’ is not a race, especially since many people who our society consider ‘mixed’ resent the term.

    Lets see what Mr Hamilton views himself as shall we. In the mean time it is refreshing and a proud period of history to have ‘a person of colour’ breaking barriers and at such a young age. An inspiration to all, especially other young men of colour who feel held back by our biased society.

    Maclaren no.2 driver…!!! Wow!!! Best wishes!!!

  5. I also agree with Rachel. Mr Hamilton is Black. there is not a place on a job application stating race to be divided up by white, black, hispanic,”mixed” and so on. This has to be the best year in Black History across the world. Doors are being knocked down based on putting the right person in the proposed position, and it just happens to be a Black person. In Pittsburgh PA where I live we got our first Black Head Coach Mike Tomlin, in the Super Bowl this year we Had “TWO” Black Head Coaches play against one another which had a “two-fold turn out”. Not only would that be the first Black Head Coach to make it to the Big Game we had the first Black Coach to win in a Super Bowl. In the Presidential Race we have a viable candidate and Lewis Hamilton who I had the pleasure of watching place third in his first ever Formula 1 race(australia) as the 2nd driver at McLaren Mercedes (GASP!!!!). Things are looking good for People of Color and I am proud to be a part of that.

  6. The question of first black in any white dominated activity is irrelevant,it is just a matter of time,disposition and opputunity.Black people are not there because they have been subjected to the background for a long for certain reasons,but now that things are levelling up,the world is opening up in terms of information and knowledge,it is just a question of interest and who is the best not withstanding the race.Time is the master.

  7. Speaking as a “mixed race” Lewis Hamilton fan, I would firstly like to congratulate him on such a spectacular and strong drive in Melbourne. More grease to your elbow Lewis. Secondly I would like to correct those other individual who seem to either be color blind or have been the subject of racial political brainwashing.

    I am proud to refer to myself as mixed race and beleive me “mixed” is a race and we are growing in numbers. I lived in Nigeria for 14 year and for every one of those years I was referred to as “white”. I returned to the UK and was then referred to as “black” so forgive me if I choose to ignore the labelling and embrace my “mixed” heritage.

  8. It’s interesting to see where this conversation has gone in response to this young man’s success as a race car driver. Immediately there is talk of old slavery laws and “tainted” blood as well as bickering about whether he is really black and what it means to be black or white or mixed. Just reading the comments on this page tell the tale of how significant Lewis’ achievment is. Even though we are in the 21st century, we still continue to make a big deal out of skin colour which, scientifically speaking, is pretty much irelevant.

    The fact is that the last 500 years of human history complete with the rise of capitalism and the coresponding development of the slave trade and colonization in Africa have turned something as arbitrary as skin color into a major social and economic divider. That being so, it takes exceptional people such as Lewis to break down doors in many different areas that non-white people have traditionally not had access to. The sports world is just one area where this has to take place. We also see it in polotics, acedemia and just about every other sector of our society.

  9. Hear, hear A Willoughby! I can’t believe the media are blanket referring to Hamilton as “black” when he clearly is not black (nor white) but both, i.e. mixed race. For those people above who are living in the dark ages, the UK census now has a category just for mixed race people – they do exist and have a right to an identity you know!

  10. Excuse me folk – I looked this site up for information about a new Formula One racing driver named Lewis Hamilton. Would anyone care to discuss his ability as a race driver? Would anyone care to hazard a guess about whether he can win the championship? Would anyone care to discuss his meteoric rise to F1 because of his brilliance on the track? Lewis Hamilton, Formula 1 driver, member of the human race, Hello!

  11. AH! Look at all the new commentors, a flock of cackling hens crossing the road, but none of us real F1 fans bothered, Hamilton’s “tint” doesn’t mean much to us. Almighty POINTS is all that counts!

  12. Philip Sparrow
    3rd April 2007, 13:49

    Back in 2005 an indian gentleman by the name of Narain Karthikeyan drove for Jordan (??)
    Not that skin colour makes one i-o-ta of difference to driving capabilities, but my understanding is that indians happen to be inherently ‘black’ and that 2005 precedes 2007.
    Congratulations to Lewis, well done for flying the BRITISH flag once again in F1.

    1. For your information an Indian person is the “Whitest” person you can find, although if you south India you found people are much darker skin. Any population around the globe close the equator are darker skin due the melanonina and the sun. Trivia for you. White people are called Caucasians because??? Because Indian people many, many thousand years ago migrated to Europe through the Caucasian mountains located between the Black sea and the Caspian sea in the occidental Asia continent and located to Europe. Virtually all western European languages are called Indo-european languages. I let you guess why. Lol

  13. He is English, races with an English based team, and he has taken two podium positions in his first two Grand Prix drives.

    I am just glad to have an English driver (who has a chance of becoming world champion) to support for the first time in years.

    It has been too long since messrs Hill and Mansell.

    As for the ‘colour’ of the the guys skin? Oh man, where have you people been for the last 50 years? !!

  14. Ok ok lets get back to the subject at hand………
    I was extremely impressed with Lewis Hamilton’s recent driver last weekend. Here’s to a first place this weekend Lewis.

    My four year old son Loves the sport and has asked me if he can race when he is older. He can identify the McLaren cars and I keep telling him to watch the way Lewis drive so he can learn.

    Lewis Hamilton can only get better.

  15. Its good to have a breath of fresh air in formula 1.
    Mix or no mix, I hope nothing happens
    to hamper LH in the future. All I want to see is more podium
    finishes for LH afterall he is named after the greatest ‘CARL LEWIS’.

  16. Come on guys, forget about his skin color. Lets congratulate this young lad for his achievement, “he is the first young F1 driver”

    Peace & blessings

  17. I have full support of the new brilliance that has graced the formula one scene! I have a black mum and a white dad. But i disagree that if u have a tiny part of black desendence then you are called black. Does the white heritage not get any recognition in the the matter. Mixed race is category which is used in the census, which i put down for myself. If you wish to call him black then they should only put 2 catagorys on the census. White or black! cuz some ppl think that if your not white then your black which is absolute rubbish!! Anyway keep up the good work lewis!

  18. I am from a mixed race background and feel that by calling someone black just because they have a tiny percentage of black heritage is absolute rubbish! Does my white father not get any recognition of how i was produced? people who think like that should wake up and smell he coffee, we are in the 21st century!
    Forgeting that well done lewis keep up the good work!

  19. James Bowman
    19th June 2007, 3:38

    I agree with james, Lewis makes no big thing of the amount of melanin his skin contains but has pointed out himself that he is mixed when others bring it up. Its not fair we fixate on something so superficial and not discuss his immense driving skill. I really apreciate his humble attitude, gentlemen like demeanor and youthful exuburance. I enjoyed watching him win the USGP on fathers day with my son from turn 1 section J. What a great race probably the best one I have attended so far. LH is the real deal and I am glad he is driving next to a two time world champion so that everyone can’t just say he is in a good car and thats the only reason he can win, he has the best yardstick F-1 could give to refrence from in Fernando. I do believe Fernando is still adapting to the driving style required of the round side profile tyres as he was the epitome of the late turn in drivers. Kimi is the other and at the USGP he was really starting to figure out the tyres and set the fastest lap, he will be far better matched to Felipe the rest of the year IMHO. Congrats Lewis keep it up you are a brilliant driver and keep thanking God.

  20. I agree with James. I think that you can’t consider a person black only because one of your parents is black. The white parent had a portion in his son’s formation and he must be recognized. Moreover, the son’s DNA is completely “mixed” and his characteristics are quite different from the “non-mixed” people. I’m Brazilian and here, almost all the people are mixed. I’m descendent from Italians, Portugueses, Black ones and American Indians, and I have characters from all of them. Could you classify me in a single race?
    And about Hamilton, I’m his new fan! He is an excellent racer and I hope he’ll have a good luck in his new career!

  21. personally i have only just heard of lewis. But all this “mixed” “black” “white” buisness doesn’t matter. He is a good young driver, who is good looking and “mixed race” which means either one of your parents is another race to the other. For example a black father and a white mother, that classes you as mixed race. If you have two black parents you are black, if you have two white you are white, even if you have a parent that is chinese and the other white, that classes you as mixed race.So A. Aldridge, i dont understand why you brought that up.He is the 1st Mixed race diver that is of black desent but that doesnt matter at all, he is a good driver!GOOD LUCK LEWIS!

  22. Lewis is not black he is mixed, and the fact that he thinks he is black seems to noly serve to increase his over confidence, when he’s won as much as MS come back and talk!

  23. Does anyone out there smell a RAT?

    Firstly, Massa slows down at the start of the Brazilian Grand Prix to give Raikkonen the chance to overtake Hamilton, then his engine “mysteriously” cuts out then a few seconds later it is back to normal and to top that, before the race, Bernie Eccleston almost made it sound like he said that it would be bad for the sport if a “Mixed Race” driver won the F1 championship.

    Something just doesn’t smell right!!!

    Well I am sure Lewis Hamilton will be back next year stronger than ever but I fear he will not only be fighting for the F1 championship, he will also be fighting againts the beaurocrats who feel that they should be the ones to choose who should be World Champ.

    See you next year.

  24. just a thought if it wasn’t for a white person lewis hamilton would not even exist she gave him life why are so many of you so quick to deny this women even exists by calling him black

  25. Let just get one thing straight you confused people! Mixed race is not a colour. Being south African does not make somebody black. Being nigerian doesnot make somebody black either. There are plenty of white people born and raised in nigeria. His skin colour is brown which make him black Darling. his race is mixed but his skin colour is black. There is not denying that a white person gave him life. She gave birth to a black person. You all sound so angry! why? Just admit what he is. BLACK. you cannot deny it!! Would you say obama was mixed race yes. kenyan and european. but his skin colour is black. Whay I ,love about America is even if you are a quarter balck, you are black, period. But her, people just dont want to acknowledge they are black because in england and other european countries, black is seen as negative. But anyway as someone who is blck but iof mixed race, I am very very proud to be black and would never deny being so.

  26. As we all know, there is only one race and that is the human race. There is a colour black, white, yellow and brown and we use these terminologies to separate people into different racial groups. Skin colour breeds ignorance, hate and death. Let us concentrate on what is really important to us all and that is the preservation of human life. We must all stop getting hung up on race and skin colour and help each other to live long, fulfilling and happy lives, no matter what part of the world we come from or what colour our skin is. Love yourself and you love everyone.

  27. am a sport race which i need a stepping stone someone to sponsor me

  28. as years go by attitudes follow suit whenever a black man has a little bit of success the white man trying to figure out a way to take that away. for example our president today barack obama the white society trying to find any way to make him seem less black or not black at all. Being that you were able to research hamilton’s backgrounds is the only reason why you are making this debate right now. if he was unknown and he was to rob you at gunpoint in an alley you would tell the authorities that it was a black man. just remember 1 drop of chocolate will turn a large glass of milk brown, That theory will not work in reverse. Good luck Hamilton, and I don’t mean with racing.

  29. Hamilton is mixed race…and more white than black for the love of god..!! Some people..oh and get your head of your asses..white slavery existed long before black slavery..and even continued during the making of america where white slaves were considered lower than blacks..I suggest you look further into history than you have…typical misguided fools.

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