Lewis Hamilton, Mercedes, Circuit Zandvoort, 2022

Hamilton says his diversity initiative, not driving, “gives my life real purpose”

2022 F1 season

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Lewis Hamilton says his work to promote diversity in motorsport has given his life a greater sense of purpose than competing in Formula 1.

The seven-times world champion set up The Hamilton Commission in 2020 to study how motorsport could be used to encourage people from under-represented backgrounds to study science, technology, mathematics and engineering (STEM) subjects.

Last year he and his Mercedes team launched a charitable initiative, Ignite, which has over £5 million in seed funding to support projects which promote diversity and inclusion. It has already provided grants to bodies such as Motorsport UK and the Royal Academy of Engineering to fund scholarships for female and black engineering students.

Hamilton described the satisfaction he has gained from the progress they have made. “When you actually see the steps that you’re taking, when you actually see that the impact, when you come to realise the impact that it’s going to make on youngsters, when you meet kids that wouldn’t have had the opportunity to, for example, be at the factory if it wasn’t for what we’re doing with Ignite, that’s incredibly humbling. It gives you a lot.”

He wishes he could make the process quicker. “I want to do more and I wish things could change now,” he said. “But I know it takes time, always, to put in foundations and actually create impact.

“It takes a long time, especially if you’re working on education. Getting more young engineers from minority backgrounds or underprivileged or under-served communities into engineering to get to university, it’s a long road, it’s years. So that’s always the thing that you wish, that you could make it quicker.”

The work being done by Ignite has given meaning to the success he has enjoyed in F1, said Hamilton. “It gives a lot,” he explained. “I love kids in general and it gives my life real purpose, way more than driving a car.

“That’s something I realised over time. I’ve always said in the past, [I’m] always wondering how did I get the opportunity? Why? Why did I have the ability? Why am I at the top of this? What does it all mean? And then it’s to be a platform to create real change and real impact.”

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Helping people from under-represented backgrounds into motorsport is important to give future participants the confidence to believe they can enter the sport as well, said Hamilton. “Sometimes it does take time,” he said. “If you don’t see it, it’s hard to believe it.

“So there’s lots of work to do with that, so I will be focusing more and more on that in the future if I can.”

Hamilton has launched a new initiative with electric SUV racing series Extreme E to create opportunities for new mechanics and engineers. Teams’ staff numbers are limited to five, but they will be allowed to hire a sixth member providing they have less than one year of professional motorsport experience.

As well as running the Team X44 squad in the series, Hamilton has recently bought a stake in the American National Football League team Denver Broncos. Diversity is also lacking in sports team management, he said.

“I’ve experienced owning a racing team with Extreme E,” Hamilton explained. “There really isn’t a lot of diversity within ownership, even if you look at all the NFL teams, for example, and even if you look down the ladder of executive positions, it’s not very diverse at all.

“It’s the same in our sport, I think we’ve got one or two black execs, one is in our team. Years ago Sauber had Monisha [Kaltenborn], but there’s not enough. It’s just down to opportunity and I do believe in that.”

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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...
Claire Cottingham
Claire has worked in motorsport for much of her career, covering a broad mix of championships including Formula One, Formula E, the BTCC, British...

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30 comments on “Hamilton says his diversity initiative, not driving, “gives my life real purpose””

  1. “Diversity is also lacking in sports team management, he said.”

    Did he also complain about the lack of racial diversity among the NBA players? And even more so on lower levels of basketball in the USA. He should go to Africa and improve their racial diversity – barely any “white” or “yellow” person there. Unless the English colonizers have done their thing there in the last couple of centuries…

    1. White = bad, non-white = good.

    2. Maybe or maybe not. But his sport is F1, not NBA.

      1. Hey, he’s the one that brought the NFL.
        71% of NFL players are non-white. Does that need fixing too?

        The problem with those stupid stats that proponents of diversity like to throw around is that without context they matter very little. I don’t think it’s a worthy goal to try and achieve racial equity in all sports. Black people are massively overrepresented in the NFL and the NBA. That’s fine. White people are underrepresented. That’s fine too.

        In major league baseball it’s about 50% white and 31% black, and the rest are something else. Is this good? I think it’s the wrong question altogether. We could argue that even in baseball whites are underrepresented since they are 57% of the population of the U.S.

        The point is that racial diversity as an objective in and of-itself is not something we should aspire to do. What we need to work on making opportunities available to people across multiple demographics and socioeconomic status.

        F1 and really professional sports in general, care very little about your race. If anything, if you’re non-white in a largely white sport, you are advantaged because it’s great marketing. But what professional sports care about is performance above all.

        F1 does discriminate, but it’s on the basis of income. The stat I care much more about than the race of drivers and managers in F1 is income. How many drivers come from very wealthy families? I think only Alonso, Hamilton, Ocon, and qualify as coming from middle income households. How many of the engineers come from middle income families? I have no idea, but I suspect teams tend to hire almost exclusively from top universities and grandes-ecoles.

        The NFL or NBA should seek out more white kids, because the job of a professional team is to get the best players they can afford.

        If Lewis wants to bring F1 to the masses, those that have bene usually excluded from the sport… then let him do something like Shaquille O’Neal, who instead of creating a shoe line with Nike or Rebook which then sold for $300 a pair, he went to Wal-Mart and made an inexpensive shoe. Maybe Lewis can create a line with Tommy Hilfilger that doesn’t cost 30% than the average Tommy clothes because they are the Lewis Hamilton line, and it’s completely unaffordable to most people.

        I’ll believe, really believe in Lewis’ desires for equality when I see him buiding schools in the ghetto like Lebron James. When I see him actually take a real risk in his career like Colin Kaepernick kneeling for the national anthem. Or like Mohammed Ali, refusing the military draft on the basis that he wasn’t allowed to use the same bathrooms as white people in civilian life, but the military had no problem drafting him just like everyone else. These are real icons of equality.

        Getting dressed in thousands of euros of massively overprized designer clothes? Parading around Monaco in a Pagani or a Ferrari? We’ve got plenty of black celebrities already doing exactly that every day. He’s just one more of the bunch, paying lip-service to equalit while living the super-rich lifestyle

    3. He’s an F1 driver. Not an NBA player. Leave it to Lebron or Steph Curry to speak about the NBA’s issues. Besides, while there are less white NBA players than black, the majority of the owners are still white. The white owners choose to hire the black players because it makes them money. Even if the owners themselves are racist (like the Suns owner), hiring those black players makes them money, so they generally don’t let their racism get in the way of the league.

      1. @sirmito

        …so they generally don’t let their racism get in the way of the league.

        They don’t let their racism get in the way of making money, as you stated.

        Different kettle of fish, but neither did slave traders. Money trumps all.

        1. I hope you know a lot of slave traders were black. Currently there is a Hollywood movie that is praising the military unit that captured the last slave that went from Africa to USA…. Cudjo lewis , was his Americanized name.
          Not one talks about that in virtuous Media….

      2. “Lewis Hamilton takes ownership share in NFL’s Denver Broncos”
        Well, he is now a NFL team partial owner, is upset that are more black persons % are in NFL teams than in general % population? How many Asians are in NFL for example?

        And regarding F1 does he compares how many atheists, Muslims, conservative Catholics, Jews are in F1? What about a Jew winning Qatar GP and Israeli flag be on top of the mast? Or only skin color matter?

        It is all infantile by Hamilton, he seems to like some sort of Corporative Chamber of Italian Fascists.

        This instead by him seems fine if it is only by the draw – not race, sex, whatever virtuous combat we are on today – :

        “Hamilton has launched a new initiative with electric SUV racing series Extreme E to create opportunities for new mechanics and engineers. Teams’ staff numbers are limited to five, but they will be allowed to hire a sixth member providing they have less than one year of professional motorsport experience.”

  2. Making it easier for talent to get involved in motorsport is always a good thing. And it seems rather self-evident that role models can and do influence what people see as acceptable and possible for themselves or their kids to aspire to. Whether that’s based on their social situation (wealth, location), their ethnicity or their gender. So good for Hamilton for devoting time and energy to this. It’s a good project.

    At the same time, with F1 being a mainly English sport, the sport is always going to look a lot more like England than anything else. That’s not going to change until F1 becomes a truly global sport. Same with Super Formula being full of Japanese people, Indycar being full of North-American people, or Stock Car Pro being full of Brazilians. And if the UK’s Office of National Statistics is anything to go by, the ‘black’ people Hamilton talks about make up only 3% of the total population there. So the numbers Hamilton names are not a huge outlier.

    1. Michael, it would be more correct to say around 13% of the population of the UK are non-white rather than saying just 2% are black. You also have to understand that the UK is not homogenous. In England, one of the four nations of the UK, 15% of the population is made up of ethnic minorites, and within the London region, that number rises to around 40%.

      1. That’s definitely true, the largest groups of non-European ethnicity in the UK are unsurprisingly those from former British India. But as Hamilton was talking about ‘black execs’, I referred to that specific number. Anyway, that was just to note that it’s not a huge surprise that the F1 leadership looks the way it does. The vast majority of English people are simply… well, English, ethnically speaking.

        1. Michael, I’m not sure how other English-speaking countries interpret the word “black”, but in the UK it is often used as an inclusive term for all non-white minorities. Black, asian, whatever, it is a broad spectrum, and people don’t fit neatly into boxes. So if Hamilton says “more black execs” when he is talking about diversity, I really don’t think he is talking exclusively about one shade of black.

          “The vast majority of English people are simply… well, English, ethnically speaking.”

          No, that is not correct. English is a language, English is a nationality, English is not a skin colour. It has nothing whatsoever to do with skin colour.

  3. “My work to make sure people do not get into motorsport on the basis of merit gives my life real purpose”

    1. I accidentally clicked on “Report Comment” here. Sorry!

    2. There’s a bit more to it than that. There are a lot of ‘selection moments’ that influence which people end up involved in F1. Whether that’s people being dissuaded from attempting to pursue a career in motorsports by parents and schools who consider it improper or unattainable, or people being unable to make industry connections because doing an internship is only possible for those who can afford to not/barely get paid for months on end. These and other such moments can indeed influence whether people from ethnic minorities (or social economic status, or gender) attempt to pursue a certain career.

      At the same time, another such selection is simply what people prefer to do. Even most people here who like watching F1, probably have no interest in being professionally involved. And sometimes, there just aren’t any people who both want to be involved and are sufficiently skilled to be hired by an F1 team. Even in what is usually considered a super accessible sport like football there is an ebb and flow in how many Brazilians/Italians/Germans/whatever make it to the top teams in the UEFA Champions League. No matter how many groups people are (said to) belong to, teams can still only hire individuals.

  4. As well as it should. F1 championships brought fame and glory to him, but his diversity initiatives will impact many generations of underrepresented groups for so many years to come.

  5. Negative Nelly here…When top athletes prioritize something over their sport, it is usually a sign that retirement is near. Most recent example is Vettel and environmentalism. Can’t stay at the top of the game if it isn’t your top priority and passion.

    1. I 100% agree. It’s the kiss of death to competitive people who start shifting their focus.

    2. Bees, wineyards, stock cars, poltics, diversity.. whatever you focus on it takes away something from racing in the top level

    3. Lewis has spent several years doing a bunch of stuff outside of the sport and has yet to lose his speed, so I think it just depends on the person.

    4. Fair, but it is time anyway so no problems there. Good for him he found another purpose

  6. The fact that people have found a way to use this to throw hate and insults at him is really very sad.

    1. I agree but in this case I feel he partly brings it on to himself by the way he advocates his goals. I have written it elsewhere and others as well: petulant, condescending, not constructive with a hint of hypocrisy are all words that also fit to what we see from him. This takes away from the noble causes he chases. So he needs advise on how to get his message and how to communicate better and mobilise & activate his audience as he partly stands in the way (so far, but that is fixable)

  7. Interesting that 7 world titles and lots of money earned driving an F1 car just doesn’t fill that gap of purpose. Many aspiring to be at the top should take note

  8. What a convoluted way to say:
    I have achieved all of my dreams I set for myself in motorsport, and my ethnicity was never an issue. I will now proceed to use the fame, wealth, and influence (read: privilege) I have built throughout my career, to discriminate on upcoming generations based on their ethnicity.

    Well said, Sir Hamilton! Now off to the Azores on your private jet, you go!

    1. Cranberry, Hamilton sold his private jet more than three years ago as part of his move to try to live a more sustainable lifestyle.

      1. If you honestly believe Sir Hamilton is arriving to the airport at least 2h before onboarding, and queuing up with the rest of the plebs to sit in his designated seat in Business Class Platinum, I have a diversity agenda you should donate to.

      2. He still flies many more times than most people. I have no qualms with that personally, just with his hypocrisy. For example if he still had his jet he would be giving work to other people for example.
        If cares that much about a 400 parts per 1000000 gas in atmosphere he should just pack his things and step down.

      3. Absolutely! Sir Hamilton uses flight services like anyone else.
        He arrives at the airport 2h before boarding, and queues up with the commoners to take his seat in Business Class Platinum.

        On second thought, I think it’s far more likely he just rents a private jet as he needs it. It’s far greener that way, after all. And the fact that it’s rented from his friend’s LLC, that Hammy-boi is also a majority owner of, is pure coincidence.

        To be clear, I have no problem with Ham’s success, wealth, or his diversity agenda.
        But to deny that his attitude and philosophy is rooted in anything anything other than privilege, hypocricy, or racism is disingenuous.

  9. Don’t drive then, just hire a chauffeur

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