Mercedes W11 in new 'end racism' livery

Hamilton: ‘I thought me being here would break down barriers but it’s not done enough’

2020 F1 season

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Lewis Hamilton says he considers it his responsibility to use the platform he has to urge others to condemn racism and promote diversity.

Speaking in an interview issued by Mercedes, the six-times world champion spoke about his personal experiences with racism and explained why he has urged others within the sport to take a stand with him.

“It’s an incredible time in the world,” said Hamilton. “Obviously there’s so many problems. But one that has been really close to my heart has been on diversity and anti-racism.

“It’s been great to see the response from people that there is now a real positive movement. And it’s happening globally. I think there’s a lot of positives to take from it.

“I’ve got a platform and I think it would be irresponsible for me not to utilise that, to help educate people, to educate myself and and really push for accountability within all the brands that I work with and within the industry that I work with.”

A phone call from Hamilton to team principal Toto Wolff last month led to Mercedes adopting a new black livery bearing the slogan ‘end racism’ for the upcoming season. The team will also take practical steps to improve diversity within its own organisaton.

Lewis Hamilton, Mercedes, Silverstone, 2020
Hamilton helped bring about Mercedes livery change
“I’ve been in a lot of discussions with with Toto and everyone at the team and the board members at Daimler and people within the marketing office just to talk about our plan and how we need to educate ourselves and how we need to be a part of this movement,” said Hamilton.

“We need to be a part of wanting to change, analysing ourselves and seeing what we can do better within our team, both at Daimler, but also back at the Formula 1 team.

“What you’re going to see at the first race I think is going to be a very, very powerful moment for us in showing that we are not opposed to change as a team. I think it’s great to see that the team and Daimler are really forthcoming with wanting to do more in promoting diversity within their organisation, but also encouraging others within the sport to do the same.”

Hamilton has attended anti-racism protests which arose in response to the killing of George Floyd in May and posted regular messages on social media calling attention to racism and urging others in F1 to speak out. “This is not an issue that’s that has only just come about,” he said.

“For me personally, I have experienced this my entire life, in my whole racing career. And when this all kicked off it really struck a nerve and a chord and brought a lot of emotion up from my personal experiences.”

“Through my whole life, really, I’ve generally through schooling and through racing, I’ve always felt that it always felt like an outsider,” said Hamilton. “It’s been difficult to feel that you fit in. I think lots of people can probably understand that because lots of people experience not feeling like they fit into society.

“I experienced a lot of racism growing up both at school, but also just in my local area where I grew up, but then on the race scene, particularly being that my dad and I were the only people of colour there. I grew up racing in the UK ’til I was 13.

“Then I went abroad and I thought was going to be different. And when I got to Italy, where I did a lot of racing, when I got to Belgium, which was one of my first international races, European races, I experienced the same thing when I was in France, all those countries.

“That was definitely a very, very difficult thing, because it affects you emotionally. You don’t understand when you’re young why things are thrown at you, why things have been shouted at you.

“I’m a fighter. I was bullied at school so there was a lot of emotion. So when this whole thing kicked off I was like, OK, I’ve got to come out and help support people because I know what it’s like to struggle, I know what it’s like to be in that position and I want to be a part of the change, I want to be a part of the solution.”

Lewis Hamilton, Valtteri Bottas, Mercedes, 2020
Mercedes reveal new race suits to match ‘end racism’ livery
He described how he expected being the first black driver to race in Formula 1 would encourage an increase in diversity.

“Standing alone, generally, was the feeling for a long, long time within this sport,” he said. “And I’d been obviously working with Mercedes since I was 13 and I’ve also been in Formula 1 now for 14 years and I’ve not seen hardly any change.

“That upsets me because there was a point that I thought that maybe by me being here and helping breaking down barriers, hopefully it’s going to help change the industry for the better. But it’s not done enough and I want to do more.”

He admitted that while Mercedes is “a team that I love” there is “also just not a lot of diversity within the team”, something he has spoken to Wolff about often.

“I’d be like ‘hey, we’ve got to do more together’. And over time our relationship has grown and our understanding of what we can do better has grown and Toto has been so supportive in really making sure we come forward and be the leaders and really try.

“Because we are the world champions, we are the best team, we need to shine our light as bright as possible to encourage other teams to want to do the same, the rest of the people in the industry to do the same. And I’m so grateful to see the response from everyone willing to move forwards.”

Hamilton said the cost of competing in Formula 1 is part of the reason why the sport doesn’t have great diversity among its participants. But he believes other factors are responsible as well, something he intends to address through his recently-launched commission.

“It is a pretty expensive sport, I think that’s definitely an underlying factor,” he said. “The truth is that the opportunity is not the same.

“Not only from the driver’s point of view, but with engineers. There’s so many great jobs and opportunities within our sport. But the opportunity is not the same for minorities to get through.

“That’s why I put together this commission to try to see, to understand why that is the case, why there are there not these intelligent minorities that are not coming through, why are not finishing university? You can’t change what you don’t know.”

On social media, Hamilton challenged “those of you who are staying silent… in the midst of injustice” to speak out against racism. He denied this was targeted only at his fellow drivers.

“Ultimately people perceive that I was targeting drivers. I really wasn’t. It was targeted at the whole industry.

“It’s been something I’ve been aware of for a long, long time and not really seen anyone doing anything about it. And so in today’s world where we all have a platform to be able to utilise our voice, we all have these followings, our voices are a very powerful. And if you are not a part of trying to encourage people to get out there and understand what this situation is and why we’re in this situation then for me that’s frustrating.

“People being silent is something that I’ve experienced for such a long time and now is not the time to be silent. This is a time to help spread the message. This is the time to pull together. We need as many voices as we can to help promote, push for change.

“Because we are all the same race. Whilst the perception is that we divided by colour and by religion and all these different things, we’re the same race. But it’s not reflected in our society and how people are treated.

“So that was really a calling to people within the industry for accountability for all the brands. They need to do more. The sport needs to do more. The FIA need to do more. We all need to do more.”

“I want to be a part of a system, a part of a solution and changing for the future,” he added. “Unfortunately for us, our generation, for our parents generation it’s unlikely it’s going to be a huge change. But it’s for our children and our children’s children.

“That’s what we’ve got to be a part of shifting so that they can live in a better time where there is equality. And I think that’s just going to create a much better environment, a better place to live.

“So that’s my dream. I mean, imagine a young kid of the same colour as me going to a school and not having to experience the injustices that I’ve experienced and many other people experienced. I think that’s that’s the dream.”

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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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40 comments on “Hamilton: ‘I thought me being here would break down barriers but it’s not done enough’”

  1. “I see those of you who are staying on your old livery, some of you the biggest of teams yet you stay colorful in the midst of injustice.” or something like that…

  2. The cause is indeed noble, but it is already beginning ……
    “I this, I that, I that other me”,
    It already looks like a narcissistic personality disorder problem !!!!
    Less talk and more effective action, without wanting to always stand out …. It gives the feeling of a continuous need for attention

    1. Because he is answering questions that journalists ask him.

      1. As I mentioned, the cause is noble.
        Apparently, you don’t understand? I explain. I just wanted to say, that the actions are the most important, those already carried out and those that can be carried out now and in the future. I do not understand the need to always appear to convey the same discourse, with the particularity of placing itself as the center for solving the problem.
        And it seems to me redundant, The action in which he was involved is not effective enough, for the simple fact that the problem still continues !!!!
        P: S: And by the way, add that I just decided to respond to you of my own free will, and not because of your inquisitive stance reminiscent of the times of the infamous inquisition, where if you do not share the same thoughts, you are doomed.

      2. Excuse. The comment is not meant for you.

    2. So tell us what that effective action should be, and why the action he has been involved in for the last decade or so is not effective enough for you. For example what charity work is he involved in in this sphere that you consider to be relatively ineffectual. Unicef, Save the Children, Education Africa, Harlem, Renaissance, togetherband for example?

      1. As I mentioned, the cause is noble.
        Apparently, you don’t understand? I explain. I just wanted to say, that the actions are the most important, those already carried out and those that can be carried out now and in the future. I do not understand the need to always appear to convey the same discourse, with the particularity of placing itself as the center for solving the problem.
        And it seems to me redundant, The action in which he was involved is not effective enough, for the simple fact that the problem still continues !!!!
        P: S: And by the way, add that I just decided to respond to you of my own free will, and not because of your inquisitive stance reminiscent of the times of the infamous inquisition, where if you do not share the same thoughts, you are doomed.

    3. @trindade Accountability, is the name of the game. Anyone can hide behind an anonymous persona and be useless, spewing negativity, such as yourself. Persons making it personal, and putting themselves in a position of accountability, are the ones who will be willed to make a difference. What you’re doing is a comfort of a prejudiced person. You say what you want shamelessly and without repercussions.

      1. Okay, I get it. Exactly the same thing you just did.
        Don’t worry, as I don’t intend to solve the problem of Racism alone. I am humble enough to realize this. Unlike others, who believe that by making themselves noticed all the time, do not stop repeating the same until exhaustion, will solve the problem.
        And by the way, just add: You say what you want shamelessly and without repercussions.

  3. Well there are several components in this complex situation.

    There is SJWarrioring, that is just rethoricsts, not based on science or fact.

    Goal being all races should have equality of outcome, silly demand this.

    Then there is plain racism, that black Hamilton was able to overcome racism and make it in a white sport.

    This I see as prof that some things are right. If you are best, then your race and gender or whatever does not matter.

    But what if you are not the best? What If you are semi great, and not easilly the best around but happen to be black. Do you get the same equality of opportunity, that a white male with same semi-greatness would get?

    I think it is easy to argue this is something that should be fixed.

    And how equal is your opportunity, if your medium black family has 5x less wealth than your medium white family?

    Children of poor white families have a hard time succeeding aswell.

    But sometimes they do, like Hamilton, despite circumstances.

    The issue with motorsport is, that only rich children can compete at any but the lowest level.

    Not white, not black, but rich. What we should be really fight is inability for poor people to access opportunity, as long as black families are more poor on average all results will seem like racism is still prevelant in our society.

    1. Hamilton’ gripe is not an F1 issue its a social issue. He spoke about his LIFE experiences not only F1. He wasn’t bullied at school because he was a poor kid, he was bullied because of racism. He experienced racism despite of his incredible talent in an industry that deify incredible talent. Thats why his voice is so important, because he can point out the glaring disparities. yes poor people have a very hard time, but every group has poor people. racism disproportionately affects one group at any given time.

      More so, name calling and bullying, pale in comparison to what you don’t see. I believe that’s what the movement is about, the lack of transparency, unregulated prejudiced, and when I say unregulated, I mean human discretion. A large organisation can have many actors imposing their many prejudices. Hamilton and Mercedes, I believe, are making a move to address that.

      1. Jack (@jackisthestig)
        2nd July 2020, 16:23

        Do you think he really cares or is this all for his own image, to be more than just a racing driver?

        1. Hes been involved in these issues for over a decade and given the amount of posters who seem to have no idea of his track record in this field; particularly given how well known he is, seems to suggest that its not about image, or that he is very poor at promoting himself. And when you can consider he can bring over $50 million into the team from just one sponsor he seems to be able to promote himself quite well when needs be.

        2. I’m sure his desire for knighthood has something to do with it. He’s not wrong but he is making it all about himself.

        3. I hazard a bet he cares.

  4. That’s the same thing I thought when Obama became US president. But it didn’t happen. Congress poo-pooed everything he tried to do just cause he’s black. And that’s why having a black president changed nothing about racism in America. The only thing they let him have was Obamacare at the end there. And I’m sure the only reason they let him have it was cause they knew it had a high percentage to fail.

    On the flipside, Obama praised the police every step of the way. So he didn’t do anything to clean out that cesspool. And even now, they are screwing it up. None of the bills they are introducing are addressing corrupt cops. The changes they want are not going to weed out bad or racist cops. They only restrict the good cops more. So even after all this, nothing is going to change with the police. In fact, it may get worse for blacks now cause the only racist cops they are eliminating are the ones who they catch on video or audio. There are TONS more that are keeping their mouths shut. And so they get to stay.

    1. You can forgive Obama not doing enough on home affairs because US president didn’t have the authority of money. Yet he managed to flood local police with weapon of war while adding twice as much wars than Bush. He do all that on his own not because congress blocked him cause he’s black.

      1. @ruliemaulana Any more random trivia? Could do with some for my Zoom quiz tonight.

        1. @alec-glen You mean any other bloodthirsty nobel peace prize winner? I need to do more research.

    2. Hang on– The Republican party didn’t mind Obama being black. They SERIOUSLY minded the fact that he defeated the “Permanent Conservative Majority”, and passed laws that would make the Democrats more popular. That’s why the Affordable Care Act terrifies them– it helps too many people.

      The Republican party has one goal– to make themselves the majority party at all times. Their single-minded pursuit of “Republicans at all costs” has led to the current neoconpoop in the White House, and hopefully, will destroy their party once and for all.

      There are racists within the Republican party– but the controlling forces behind the RNC and Fox don’t care about race, they care about winning, and the ends justify the means.

      And anyone who thought Obama was anything other than an intelligent, moderate pragmatist, wasn’t paying attention. Perhaps not the best President we’ve had, but far, far from the worst.

  5. Money became even more of an obstacle during his career, so of course things didnt improve.

  6. I’ve always just looked at him as a race driver, same as the others. Is this wrong now?

    1. Sad thing is, many people are not racist and live in communities with different races and cultures, but are now being made to feel bad and pushed to virtue signal over an issue they never had a problem with.

    2. Jack (@jackisthestig)
      2nd July 2020, 16:16

      It seems like it. I gather if you treat everyone equally and someone’s colour doesn’t even cross your mind then you are ‘facilitating racism’ and ‘turning a blind eye to injustice’.

      1. kevin citron
        2nd July 2020, 17:03

        apparently we’ve all been racist (cause you know silence is violence) and it took hamilton and mercedes new black livery to show us the error of our ways.

        1. Yes, so sorry. I wasn’t racist. At least I thought. But now it turns out I am because I am silent. Because I do not follow the agenda of others.. so sorry

  7. Football is arguably the most diverse sport in the world
    The four greatest footballers of all time feature an ethnic minority plus two south Americans and a European (Pele, Maradona, Messi and Cristiano in no particular order) or three latinos and a European (Brazil and Argentina are part of Latin America)
    The current best National team is France which has lots of immigrants and minorities from poor backgrounds
    It’s all to do with cost
    With a ball, 22 kids can play everyday on a field, or 10+ kids on the street
    Same for basketball
    With a go kart, one kid at a time when a track is open and available
    The journey to F1 needs money in one way or another or connections (In football rarely does a top footballer’s kid emulate his father if he’s not as talented)
    A larger percentage of that wealth is concentrated in developed countries and medium to high class areas
    Diversity in F1 will be harder than say, diversity in motorsport in general. F1 is the tip of the pyramid.
    In Engineering it’s very possible but in drivers, tens of thousands start in Karts all over Europe, America and Australia but only 20 can occupy the grid
    So it might be a while

  8. Ultimately people perceive that I was targeting drivers. I really wasn’t. It was targeted at the whole industry.

    While I am totally supportive of Lewis in this endeavor and I am glad he has been outspoken on this, this statement is a bit revisionist. While he was absolutely calling out the entire industry, he also clearly targeted his fellow drivers, who are “the biggest stars.” And as well he should call on them as the biggest stars and the hero’s to many people out there. As a collective group, they have the ability to influence their followers and fans far beyond what F1, as an impersonal industry, can do.

    Full quote below for reference.

    I see those of you who are staying silent, some of you the biggest stars yet you stay silent in the midst of injustice. Not a sign from anybody in my industry which of course is a white-dominated sport. I’m one of the only people of color there, yet I stand alone. I would have thought by now you would see why this happens and say something about it but you can’t stand alongside us. Just know I know who you are and I see you. …

  9. Again: equality of opportunities does NOT mean equality of outcomes.
    Lewis: STOP crying and talking.

    1. I think what Lewis is looking for at the moment is more about Justice than Equality. See this page for a graphic illustrating the differences between inequality, equality, equity and justice. Many societies around the world are still firmly in the inequality pane when it comes to race.

  10. Lewis: shut up and drive like the brilliantly talented man that you are. This is the best statement and the only one that matters to F1 racing fans.

  11. Really great comments from Hamilton, explaining his own experience and how he’s trying to use his influence with responsibility. Also really happy that this site is covering the issue so well.

    1. True that, but it does raise the question on Sports and politics again. Every sport event uses the ‘we are not into politics, we are a sports event’ defense when organising a venue in a questionnable country (usually questionnable on human rights etc, you know what countries I am referring to). Lewis races those events. Everyone does. We play football in those countries as well and so many other sports. So for some cases and countries we could deviate from that past behaviour and draw a line. But who exactly is drawing the line. Who is to judge between obvious human rights violation or questionnable grey areas (can I mention gray?, or does that insult the elderly?). Lewis in the end can do whatever he wants but me personally would rather see him advocating rather than calling to action. Since his cause is just one of many he just happens to find important now. And he should realise the errors of his own way on so many other topics (ref racing in countries that… etc etc)

  12. Mercedes has the best team with the best engineers, they have won the championship for 6 straight years, so… they have to change their approach to select more “diverse people” in the team?
    You cannot force diversity, you have to allow it… not look into someone cultural background or skin color to select somebody for the job, only hire the very bests.

    Maybe I don’t understand the issue because where I come from we don’t experience racism. I lived in Venezuela for 30+ years and I never experienced racism nor saw that it was an issue for people (I guess dealing with hunger, poverty and a dictatorship is more on an issue to deal with). We are very multicultural and mixed.

    So.. my point is, Mercedes is looking for the best people to have in their team whether their race, that´s not turning a blind eye to diversity, that’s wanting to be the best. They didn’t signed Lewis because he was black, they signed him because he was the best.

    1. Maybe you don’t understand because you didn’t read everything that they are getting involved in. For example they are going to widen the recruitment network they traditionally use. Instead of taken the best from the four traditional British Universities, they will look further afield. So the best from a number of new sources. And yes, that is an over simplification.

  13. Josh (@canadianjosh)
    2nd July 2020, 17:50

    Dear Lewis, when I wake up at 6 am on Sunday morning I do so to watch my favourite Motorsport. So thank you very much for bringing this subject to the track because outside of those 2 beautiful hours watching you win and making more money than I could dream of, I don’t seem to hear enough about it…..

    1. exactly – put your helmet on and drive.

      1. Bit hard to do that on a Thursday in an interview isn’t it? Or is your comment more “black man know your place” ?

  14. Mixed race Lewis fan here… I’m getting tired of all this talk about race while we’re all poor, all debt slaves, and the 0.1% just get richer and richer… this is a BIGGER problem

  15. You want to break down barriers? Easy, just crash into them harder!

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