Hamilton sees struggle for diversity as a drive in Formula One: ‘I have a mission’

Hamilton sees struggle for diversity as a drive in Formula One: 'I have a mission'

The Formula 1 title fight in 2021 between Lewis Hamilton and Max Verstappen is also a duel for generations: the Briton, who is 12 years older than his rival, has been racing for 14 years in this class – against seven RPR drivers. But it’s not his experience to be the seven-time champion Mercedes’ champion in the championship row, but it’s in the battle he’s fighting the tracks for versatility.

– This year I did not use my previous experience as an incentive. I was fueled by the energy to do this positive action. I realized this last year. When I got on the podium with the jersey that voted for Briona (Taylor, an African American savior killed by police), it was something very motivating to me – Hamilton revealed.

The Briton wore a T-shirt emblazoned with the words “Stop the Officers Who Killed Briona Taylor” at the 2020 Tuscany Grand Prix in September. The stage winner, climbed to the podium with the piece he could not replicate on other occasions Immediately after the race, F1 decided that drivers would be prohibited from using any props other than a racing suit at the ceremony.

Hamilton, now 36, has renewed his contract with Mercedes until 2023, tying his stay in Formula 1 to fighting racism. This season, he faces competition from Verstappen: after seeing his rival take the lead in the first races of 2021, the Dutchman turned the game around with a win in Monaco and three more victories (France, Styria and Austria).

The Mercedes driver came to reclaim the championship lead after the Hungarian stage in which he finished second, but Max finished second after two rounds with a victory in the Netherlands, and with his victory in the US last Sunday opened a 12-point advantage on the table.

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Like other sports, the backlash in 2020 has been felt in F1 by the killing of George Floyd, an African American killed by police officers – but by Hamilton, whose F1 mission has led to the creation of a diverse “We Race as One” task force (we run as one, in Portuguese ).

Since then, the British have developed projects such as the Hamilton Commission, which, in partnership with the Royal Academy of British Engineering, investigated the absence of blacks in motorsport, and Mission 44, set up with a personal volume of £20 million (about R$140 million). .

Mission 44’s latest initiative is a project to train black teachers in the UK. These efforts, he says, have brought him a purpose that F1 alone would not have given him:

This is the work I’m doing behind the scenes now and I’m enjoying it. Does it help me run? Yes, it’s my new direction, and I feel it gives me more longevity because we have a lot of work to do. It also brings real purpose to my life. Running isn’t a purpose, it’s just something you do. There were times when I didn’t know if I would be able to continue, and maybe there was something else I wanted to do. But I didn’t find my goal until last year.

Mercedes has also developed activities such as the Mulberry STEM Academy for girls from minority groups; Ignite, which promotes education and jobs for students and non-whites in motorsport, and a new partnership with the UK Association of Ethnic and Black Minority Engineers (AFBE-UK).

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Now I feel like I have a mission in life and it’s not just about winning trophies and races, which is great, but impacting and helping young people move forward. My niece and nephew are going to have school conversations about engineering and they might want to study science, and be non-white kids who might be engineers at F1 or NASA, wherever. Hamilton celebrated.

Eternal Brands

Mercedes’ efforts are part of the Accelerate 25 programme, which aims to increase the proportion of non-white employees on the team to 25%. However, in Hamilton’s early years in Formula 1, the environment in which the Briton lived was very different. In 2008, his second season in this category, he experienced the most notable racist episode in his entire career during Barcelona’s pre-season.

Fans had their faces painted black and their T-shirts emblazoned with the ‘Hamilton Family’ logo, and hurled racial insults at the then McLaren driver from the stands. The work known today as “The Black Face” consists of drawing a white person in black to comically imitate black people.

The episode was rejected by the FIA, which created an anti-racism campaign for the Spanish Grand Prix, but no further action was taken.

I remember the pain I felt that day, but I didn’t say anything about it. I didn’t have anyone. Nobody said anything. “I’ve seen people in my field keep quiet,” Hamilton exclaimed.

Later that year, the Spanish website of one of the world’s largest advertising agencies used discriminatory terms to refer to the Briton in publications supporting Fernando Alonso, his direct rival in 2007 who downplayed the pre-season episode, saying it was not necessary for the federation’s campaign The International Motor Show and its justification “the less talk about it, the better”.

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“Maybe the initiatives would have taken place in Formula 1 without Lewis, but certainly not within the scope of what he launched here,” commented Toto Wolff, team leader at Mercedes.

As he juggles his battle for diversity in and out of Formula 1, Hamilton has five stages left to drop the 12-point championship teams to Verstappen, in search of an unprecedented eight championship. The duo will face each other on November 7, at the Mexico GP.

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