Motorsport needs to become cheaper at a grassroots level in order to be more inclusive and diverse, according to Mercedes team principal Toto Wolff.
Formula 1 came under criticism from Lewis Hamilton (pictured at right, above, with Wolff) for its silence on the global protests that followed the death of George Floyd, as a number of other sports stars and leagues spoke up over the weekend. While Hamilton thanked F1 for an official statement on social media on Tuesday, attention is quickly turning to how a white male-dominated sport can become more diverse, and Wolff believes it needs to start at the lowest levels.
“Where it needs to start is in go-karting,” Wolff said. “The grassroots of motor racing need to become much more affordable than they are today. To pay £100,000 ($126,000), for a 12-year-old to race in a proper championship is simple unimaginable for most families.
“We need to work on a scheme that we have a large number of kids who can try go-karting, compete in proper kit, and eventually they will make their way into F1. Someone like Lewis Hamilton, who was given the opportunity in a go-kart, will always find his or her way into F1 because their talent is extraordinary. But every single category needs to come down in cost.”
Wolff says Hamilton has raised the issue of race with him before, in trying to make his team principal aware of what his life has been like in the minority in racing.
“We know that Lewis is always strong in support of any minorities. To be honest I have learned a lot from him as well. He has asked me the question once, ‘Have you ever had the active thought that you are white?’ And I said ‘No, actually, I’ve never thought about it,’ and he said, ‘Well, I need to think about it every day as I am being made aware.’
“And I think therefore it’s very difficult for us to comprehend how difficult it is, and I am happy and supportive that he has come out vocal — he is one of the ambassadors of this sport and I think it’s good.
“I was lucky enough when I was raised in a household with different nationalities, that I lived with a Jewish family for a long time when my family faced tough times. And I saw what discrimination looked like as an early child already. All of us have the power to make a change and sometimes it needs events, like the ones that happened a few days in the U.S., to trigger a massive wave of support for any minority.
“I think it is good that Lewis as a sports superstar is the one up front with it in a sport which is very much dominated by white males. In our teams, we encourage diversity, we choose our people on only performance, and don’t look at any culture, religion or skin color. All of us can make a difference. Every single one of us should be part of the movement to stop these kind of things happening.”