Lewis Hamilton says Formula 1 has made no progress in fighting racism and promoting diversity, and called on FIA president Jean Todt and F1 CEO and chairman Chase Carey to show leadership on the subject.
Formula 1 announced a diversity initiative called ‘#WeRaceAsOne’ ahead of the first race of the season. Drivers also participated in a pre-race gesture of support for diversity, which has continued in subsequent races.
Hamilton said Formula 1 “did an okay job in the first race”. But, he added, “it’s not good enough in terms of what you see in other sports.”
“It was a step forward and then it’s almost like it’s gone off the agenda after that. It’s lacking leadership.
“There needs to be leadership from the top. They need to come out with ‘hey, this is what we’re going to do guys, and we want you all to be a part of it’. And currently there is none of that.”
Hamilton said he is more keen to see action taken by those who run the sport, rather than his fellow drivers.
“I try not to lean so much on the drivers because I don’t want them to feel that it’s me doing it, because that probably could be in some cases the reason why people might not want to do it, because they think it’s that I’m doing it,” he said.
“But I don’t think it’s been taken seriously. I think there are perhaps people who have not grown up around it so don’t understand it. And there are those that because of that [say] ‘it doesn’t affect me’. I have heard those comments: ‘Look, it doesn’t do anything for me, so why should I do it?’
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“But it’s not about me, it’s not about you, it’s about this fight. People out there who are experiencing discrimination, that’s what we’re fighting for. We’re fighting for change in organisations.”
He wants the sport to follow the example of Mercedes, which has announced it will launch a new programme to promote diversity this year.
“I continue to be really proud of my team,” he said. “I know you could say that I’m biased, but I’m not. My team has actually held themselves accountable and I continue to really try to follow through and be understanding.
“My team took a knee at the last race – I’m not quite sure if they did today because I didn’t see them, I think they did – and that takes a lot of guts and a lot of open-heartedness to fight with that.
“You’re not seeing that follow-through by any other brand. There are hundreds of brands that are involved in this sport and there are nine other teams who have yet to say ‘you know what guys, like Formula 1, we hold ourselves accountable, we’re going to do so, we’re going to do better with the sport’. I’ve not heard that from any of them and I think that maybe is why the drivers are not also following through because they don’t feel part of it.
“So I will get in touch with Formula 1 this week. I will speak to Jean because no one else is going to do it, particularly.
“There are few drivers, as I said, who have been in touch with me like, ‘hey, I want to be a part of this, what can I do?’ Which is fantastic. My dream is that by the end of the year we will all know and understand things better. We all stand united and the whole of Formula 1 is on top of it.”
Hamilton said Formula 1 “haven’t made any progress” in improving diversity within the sport yet. “We’ve said things and there’s been statements released and we’ve made gestures, such as kneeling. But we’ve not changed anything except for perhaps our some of our awareness.”
He intends to bring this up directly with those in charge of the sport. “I’ll get back on the call with Formula 1 and see where they are, where they’re feeling confused, where they’re feeling pressure.
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“I’d love to know what Jean thinks, I’d love to know what Chase thinks and what the organisation thinks of moving forwards. But there is no progress yet.
“So far it’s been visible but as I’ve said there’s nine teams that… I think there’s one that I’ve spoken to who already are working in the background, but there’s no other teams that I know of that have been held accountable or hold themselves accountable.
“I think you need a leader. Where is Jean in that scenario? It shouldn’t be for me to have to call the teams, or call the teams out. I want to encourage them, it shouldn’t be me that has to give them a call with them to say, ‘hey, what are you doing?’ ‘What’s your plan?’ That should be announced or discussed from the top down, that should be coming from the higher powers.”
Yesterday’s joint anti-racism gesture by the drivers was markedly less well-organised than previous examples. In a break with convention, they were told to congregate in the pit lane instead of at the front of the grid, and several drivers did not arrive before the national anthem began.
The confusion over the pre-race arrangements arose partly from disagreements within the Grand Prix Drivers’ Association, according to Hamilton. He said Romain Grosjean, a GPDA director, had argued against continuing the practice after the first race of the season.
“There definitely is not enough support for it,” said Hamilton. “I think from a drivers’ point of view, many people seem to be of the opinion that they’ve done it once and they’re not going to do it again. And I don’t know their reasons for that opinion.
“We are all members of the GPDA and the GPDA is run by three people, two who are really for it and supportive of it and one that is one of those that tends to not think it’s important to continue with.”
Sebastian Vettel said he felt the arrangements before Sunday’s race had been “rushed”, and drivers were confused about what was planned.
“I think what you see is what the situation is,” he said after the race. “I think also today there was very, very little time in all fairness, everything was a bit rushed.
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“I think drivers were just about to arrive to do what every driver individually decided to do and in the end, [the anthem] was starting. I think going forwards, it’s probably true that we need to talk amongst ourselves a bit better. So hopefully we can sort it out.”
Hamilton’s team mate Valtteri Bottas said he “didn’t really know just before the race that there was going to be something happening before the national anthem” and “there was not that much communicated” about it.
“But in the drivers’ meeting, FOM made it very clear that they are happy to help if we want to organise something either before or after the national anthem for the drivers to show our opinion or support for different things. So I think they are kind of with us. But I think for this weekend, it was not maybe communicated that well between between drivers and GPDA.”
Bottas, who like Vettel joined Hamilton in taking a knee before the race yesterday, said he supports his team mate’s outspoken stance on the issue of racism.
“Lewis, for sure, he’s really pushing for this topic, which I understand and as a team we’re really backing him up. And it’s an important matter, it’s a big thing in the world. So that’s OK.
“I just personally, I don’t really like politics. I’m a racing driver, but I’m happy to support because I’m anti-racist, I don’t like people being racist. It’s not right. So of course, I’m happy to support that.
“At the same time, yes, I’m a driver, I just love to drive and aiming to win races. But we all can have a big impact.
“So it’s nice to use it the way we’re using and I think Lewis is changing the mindset of many drivers and many people in the world on how we can actually affect things. So that’s very positive and that’s very good and he’s got my support for that.”
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