Thursday’s FIA press conference in Mexico touched on topics that would have been more fitting for an edition of Question Time. Chat about tyres, team orders and updates was largely shelved for a discussion centred on environmentalism and, at one stage, politics.

It came as little surprise following Lewis Hamilton’s posts on Instagram last week about his fears for the planet, imploring his followers to consider switching to a vegan diet – only to face a backlash across social media as many moved to point out his hypocrisy.

Yes, it is difficult for someone whose job involves driving cars – even these super-efficient hybrids – in 21 countries around the world (before even factoring in all the additional travel, optional or otherwise) to preach about doing your bit to save the world.

But Hamilton made clear on Thursday in Mexico to his detractors that he is not ignorant of this. He is fully aware of the impact his job has on the world. “It’s not the easiest because yes, we are travelling around the world, we are racing Formula 1 cars. Our carbon footprint for sure is higher than the average homeowner who lives in the same city,” he acknowledged.

“But it doesn’t mean you should be afraid to speak out about things that can be for a positive change. I’m always looking at things and how I can improve the effect that I’m having on the world.”

And Hamilton did that in clinical fashion, laying out for everyone to see just what exactly he is doing to help the environment. His plant-based diet is just one part of a much wider push to do ‘his bit’ that was perhaps not fully known until he opened up about it in the press conference.

It’s worth letting Lewis explain this in his own words. Below are some quotes from his soliloquy during the press conference that lasted several minutes:

“I’m trying to make sure that by the end of the year I’m carbon neutral.”

“I don’t allow anyone in my office and also within my household to buy any plastics, I want everything recyclable, down to deodorant, down to toothbrush, all these kind of things.”

“I sold my plane over a year ago. I fly a lot less now. I’m trying to fly less through the year, I’m mostly flying commercial, so that’s been a big change in my habits. I’ve avoided trips as well if I didn’t need to do it.” [Hamilton’s cherry-red private jet has been one of the most-used – and least-accurate – bits of ammo against him in this argument.]

“I have my new smart electric car at home. I’ve sold several of my cars.”

“I have three Mercedes in the States. [I’ll] send them back and get EQCs. I have a Maybach in London, I’m looking to switch that. I love the Maybach. However right now that doesn’t really suit what I’m fighting for, so I need to change that either for an EQC or one of the hybrids they have.”

“I’m working with the team who are also really pushing to be carbon neutral, also changing things in their canteen because there’s a lot of plastics which you’ll see here, for example, we have mostly Just Water which are bio-degradable bottles.”

“Car manufacturers have all-leather interiors. There’s no reason why we cannot have faux-leather, faux-suede, so I’m pushing to be part of that change with Mercedes-Benz.”

“I work with Tommy Hilfiger, nearly 70 percent of all the clothes that I’ve done are sustainable and either recycled fabrics or faux-leather, faux-suede, and the goal is to have that 100 percent, I’m looking at some point to have that 100 percent sustainable, hopefully in the next year or two.”

These are steps that go far and beyond what the average person will be doing to try and save the planet. These are deep-rooted, paradigm shifts that Hamilton is trying to invoke within the institutions he comes into contact with.

So why tear him down? Why criticise him for trying to create positive change?

The argument that he is hypocritical, and that if he really cared about the environment he would simply quit F1 altogether, is repetitive. Hamilton is well aware of the damage his sport does, and is aware of the changes he needs to make in his own life. Proof of that comes in the fact he recognises his beloved Maybach, in its current form, does not fit in with the message he is trying to spread. So he’s making a change.

Hamilton has earned himself a platform through his success in F1. Without this sport, he would not have the 13.2 million followers on Instagram from which he is trying to spread the message about making big societal changes.

And who is truly holy enough to be able to try and suggest such change in the world? Who lives a completely carbon-neutral, plastic-free, perfectly-vegan, and all the bells-and-whistles-attached-eco-perfect life that gives them the right to truly say “THIS is how you should live if you want to save the planet!” Good luck finding them. And even if you do, I doubt they have anything like the reach Hamilton enjoys…

Just because you cannot align perfectly with a certain ideology does not mean you should make zero effort whatsoever. And if even if a tiny percentage of Hamilton’s followers become more eco-conscious as a result of his messages, the ripple effect that could have is huge.

And that is exactly what the world needs right now.

 

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