Lewis Hamilton says the sport should be wary of giving platforms to older voices with past links to Formula 1 in case their opinions are taken as a wider reflection on the sport.
Three-time world champion Nelson Piquet has been banned from the paddock and received widespread condemnation from F1, the FIA, teams and drivers for using a racially-offensive term to refer to Hamilton on a Brazilian podcast. Then on Thursday morning, former F1 CEO Bernie Ecclestone said he would “still take a bullet” for Vladimir Putin and reaffirmed his admiration of the Russian leader despite the invasion of Ukraine, which also led to F1 distancing itself from the 91-year-old.
After having seen so many comments defending him after the Piquet quotes first appeared, Hamilton says the Brazilian’s views are not in line with F1’s own progress.
“I’m incredibly grateful to all those that have been supportive within the sport, particularly the drivers,” Hamilton said. “It’s been two years since many of us took the knee at the first race in Austria, and of course we are still faced with the challenges.
“I’ve been on the receiving end of racism and criticism and that negativity and archaic narratives for a long, long time – and undertones of discrimination – so there’s nothing really particularly new for me.
“It’s more about the bigger picture. I don’t know why we are continuing to give these older voices a platform, because they’re speaking upon our sport and we’re looking to go somewhere completely different. And it’s not representative I think of who we are as a sport now and where we’re planning to go.
“If we’re looking to grow in the U.S. and other countries, South Africa, and grow our audience we need to be looking to the future and giving younger people a platform that are more representative of today’s time, to who we are trying to be and the direction that we are going.
“So it’s not just about one individual, it’s not about just that one use of that term, it’s the bigger picture.”
While Hamilton wants to see more action taken, he says further incidents can be avoided by not asking for opinions on such topics from older figures who have no direct ties to the sport.
“It’s now a knee-jerk reaction really from companies all around the world,” he said. “When something like this happens, they probably already… I’m not saying that we do, but you have got to imagine that everyone’s PR agency or PR people have already got a script ready for something like that – crisis management. It’s not enough, now it’s about actual real action, we’ve got to start acting.
“It comes down to F1, to the media, we should not be giving these people a platform. These old voices, whether they’re subconscious or consciously do not agree that people like me – for example – should be in a sport like this, do not think that women should be here… Discrimination is not something we should be projecting and promoting, and giving a platform that can divide people.
“More than ever, we’re living in such a difficult time in the world. We need people to be bringing people together. We are all the same, and it is not helpful, the comments we are seeing from these people.
“These past couple of weeks, I don’t think there’s a day gone by where some of the people who have not really been relevant in our sport for decades saying negative things and trying to bring me down. But I’m still here, I’m still standing strong, and I’m focused on my work and really trying to push for diversity and inclusion within our organization.
“We really need F1 and all of the teams that have committed to signing this F1 charter that I have done at work with the Hamilton Commission, to work and also to put funds towards D&I. It’s not good enough just saying ‘we are also focused on it’ and just lip service, we really need to push for action. And that’s why I’m proud of the first step we’ve done with Ignite, and that’s not the end of it, that’s just the beginning.
“I’ve got Mission 44 up and running, I’ve got a whole team of people there to really focus on it. I’ve got my own money in that and I’m out trying to raise money to also try to push this. I’ve got partnerships with Sky, there’s a lot of great work happening, but we need more and I can’t do it alone.”
The Ignite Partnership – a joint effort from Hamilton and Mercedes – announced today that it will donate half a millions pounds (over $600,000) to Motorsport UK to focus on increasing female participation in grassroots motorsport, and to the Royal Academy of Engineering to deliver Masters-level motorsport engineering scholarships for Black students respectively.