Lewis Hamilton says the FIA and Formula 1 and should be taking more of a lead in the fight against racism and to increase diversity in the sport.
Before the season-opening Austrian Grand Prix, time was put aside before the national anthem on the grid to allow all 20 drivers to make a statement, with many taking a knee. But the next two subsequent efforts have been disjointed, with some drivers repeating the protest during Sunday’s pre-race ceremony in Hungary but many others not making it into position in time and being late for the national anthem. Hamilton fears not enough action is being taken after initial gestures were made, and is frustrated that he feels like the biggest driving force calling for change in the sport.
“We haven’t made any progress,” Hamilton said. “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 some of our awareness. I’m definitely encouraged by our team; those in Formula 1 who are ‘What else can we do? Can we do more? Can we do it better?’, so I think it’s about communication.
“I will get back on a call with Formula 1 and see where they are, where they’re feeling confused, where they’re feeling pressure. I’d love to know what Jean (Todt) thinks, I’d love to know what Chase (Carey) thinks and what the organization thinks moving forwards. But there is no progress yet.
“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, but it shouldn’t be me that has to get on a call with them and says ‘Hey, what are you doing? What’s your plan?’ That should be discussed from the top down. That should be coming from the higher powers that control and pull the strings.”
Hamilton also singled out Grand Prix Drivers’ Association (GPDA) chairman Romain Grosjean when talking about a lack of understanding among the drivers after Grosjean said nothing had been agreed among the GPDA regarding an ongoing unified stance.
“There definitely is not enough support for it,” Hamilton said. “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. 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 that are really for it and supportive of it, and one that is one of those who thinks it’s not important to continue with.
“And then Formula 1, they did an OK job, I would say, at the first race. It’s not good enough in terms of what you see in other sports; it’s almost like it’s gone off the agenda after that. It’s lacking leadership, and ultimately we perform in a sport, there needs to be leadership from the top. They need to come out with ‘This is what we’re going to do guys and we want you all to be a part of it’. Currently there is none of that.
“I try not to lean so much on the drivers because I don’t want them to feel that it’s for me they’re doing it because that could be in some cases a reason why some people might not want to do it – because they think it’s because I’m doing it.
“But I don’t think it has been taken seriously. I think there are people who have perhaps not grown up around it so don’t understand it, and there are those that because of that ‘it doesn’t effect me’. I’ve heard those comments – ‘It doesn’t do anything for me so why should I do it?’ – but it’s not about me, it’s not about you, it’s about this fight that for people out in the world who are experiencing discrimination.
“That’s what we’re fighting for. We’re fighting for change in organizations. I think Mercedes… I honestly continue to be really proud of my team. And I know you could say that I’m biased, but I’m not. My team has actually held themselves accountable and continue to really try and follow through in understanding it. My team took the knee at the last race, and that takes a lot of guts and open-heartedness to fight with that.
“You’ve not seen that followed through by any other brand. There’s 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 better with the sport’. I’ve not heard that from any of them. I think that maybe why the drivers are also not following through, because they don’t feel a part of it.
“I will get in touch with Formula 1 this week. I will speak to Jean because nobody else is going to do it. But there are a few drivers who are in touch with me and are 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 all know and understand things better. We all stand united, and the whole of Formula 1 is on top of it.”