‘It’s been a lonely journey’: Lewis Hamilton opens up on F1’s diversity problem

Hamilton is hoping to improve representation of Black people in Formula 1

Harry Latham-Coyle
Tuesday 03 May 2022 10:23 BST
Hamilton on 'lonely journey' in F1 and 'nerve-racking' Miami GP ahead

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Lewis Hamilton hopes that he can improve diversity in Formula 1 after describing being the only Black driver on the grid as a “lonely journey”.

The seven-time world champion has formed The Hamilton Commission to improve the representation of Black people in UK motorsport.

The organisation has also set up “Mission44”, which strives to “support, champion and empower young people from underrepresented groups in the UK to succeed”.

Hamilton is the only Black driver to have raced in F1.

Speaking ahead of the inaugural Miami Grand Prix, the Mercedes driver told ABC of the loneliness he had felt as the only person of colour involved in the sport.

“It’s generally been quite a lonely journey - me and my family have been the only Black family,” Hamilton explained.

“I have been racing for 29 years, professional for 16, and most often been the only person of colour in the room. When I would ask the question, there was no real greet feedback.

“So, I put together the Hamilton Commission. It starts with education and understanding. We have put together this body of research to try and understand what those barriers are.

“Not only in our industry where we have over 40,000 jobs but only one per cent come from black backgrounds, there are real systemic issues within the educational system.

“The Hamilton Commission has started Mission44 which I’ve funded myself to try and create more representation, support and empowerment for these young, under-served groups.”

A report released last July found that only 1% of employees in F1 are from Black backgrounds alongside a wider exclusion of Black people from opportunities in science, technology, engineering and maths (STEM).

The Hamilton Commission made ten recommendations at that time to improve diversity, including asking F1 teams and other motorsport organisations to take the lead in implementing a diversity and inclusion charter for motorsport, and launching scholarship programmes to help Black graduates with degrees in engineering to progress to motorsport roles.

Hamilton said at the time: “Given the right opportunities and support, young people can excel at whatever they put their minds to, but our research shows that many young Black people are being closed out of opportunities within STEM, and having their full potential limited.

“Through the Commission’s research, we can see there are clear meaningful steps the motorsport industry needs to take towards creating a more inclusive environment where diversity can thrive but also that we must tackle the barriers facing Black students that exist throughout their educational journey.

“Some of these barriers I recognise from my own experiences, but our findings have opened my eyes to just how far reaching these problems are. Now that I’m armed with the Commission’s recommendations, I am personally committed to ensuring they are put into action.”

Hamilton sits seventh in the Drivers’ Championship after the opening four races of the 2022 season.

Battling performance issues with the new Mercedes W13 car, the 37-year-old has declared his hopes of a record eighth title over, but remains excited ahead of the first Miami Grand Prix.

The new destination adds a second weekend in the United States to the F1 calendar as popularity grows in the country, and Hamilton admits he has been a little perplexed that it has taken until now for American fans to engage with the sport.

“We have Austin in Texas which has always been amazing, while the first race I had out there was Indianapolis in 2007,” Hamilton explained.

“[Miami] is going to be a huge event for us. Now we have two grands prix in the States and another in Vegas next year - it’s going to be huge.

“I have been coming out here for a long, long time and never quite understood why people weren’t into Formula 1. There are such huge sporting fans out here.”

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