Lewis Hamilton is once again leading the way in Formula 1’s response to greater global issues, this time by zoning in on the issues of racial injustice and imploring his contemporaries to join him in using their platforms to influence change.

It is not the first time (and it is unlikely to be the last) that Hamilton has used his platform to highlight worldwide issues, whether it be about the environment or questioning F1’s decision to attempt to go racing in Australia earlier this year amid the outbreak of coronavirus. 

Hamilton has never shied away from speaking his mind and that has landed him in hot water on occasion, but his latest stand is against a shameful reality that he has been fighting for years. 

Speaking on Sunday evening in a post on his Instagram story, Hamilton said he stood alone in motorsport’s fight to condone racism.

However, this time he went to the extent of calling out his fellow F1 peers directly for staying silent over the murder of George Floyd, an unarmed black man, by police in the United States of America. 

"I see those of you who are staying silent, some of you the biggest stars yet you stay silent in the midst of injustice," Hamilton wrote.

"Not a sign from anybody in my industry which of course is a white dominated sport. I'm one of the only people of colour there yet I stand alone.

"I would have thought by now you would see why this happens and say something about it but you can't stand alongside us.

"Just know I know who you are and I see you.”

The six-time world champion went on to clarify that he only supports those protesting peacefully and not turning to violence.

He added: "This is not just America, this is the UK, this is Spain, this is Italy and all over. The way minorities are treated has to change, how you educate those in your country of equality, racism, classism, and that we are all the same.

"We are not born with racism and hate in our hearts, it is taught by those we look up to."

Hamilton was F1’s first black driver and remains one of just two black drivers in the world’s leading motorsport categories, alongside Bubba Wallace, who races in NASCAR - a series which was recently at the centre of its own racism controversy. 

Kyle Larson was suspended from the series after he used a racial slur during the live-streaming of a virtual race, before subsequently being fired by Chip Ganassi Racing. 

Hamilton has previously spoken out about the need for greater diversity within motorsport and said as recently as April that he thought the situation was “worse than ever before”

When he retires, the Briton has also made it clear he is keen to work with F1’s governing body, the FIA, to try to change the “most minimal diversity” in F1 and help less-privileged children get into motorsport. 

A number of prominent sporting stars and public figures have used their social media platforms to lend their support to the protests and demonstrations that have been sparked by Floyd’s death, while the likes of Borussia Dortmund footballer Jadon Sancho revealed a shirt with the message ‘Justice for George Floyd’ after scoring one of his three goals during a Bundesliga match over the weekend. 

But Hamilton was the first from the world of F1 to speak out. Time and time again it is Hamilton who has used his voice to great effect by raising issues. 

Consequently, within 24 hours of his initial post, a number of fellow stars had followed suit in a sudden rush of support, no doubt inspired by Hamilton’s call to arms. 

Nearly half of the grid, including the likes of Charles Leclerc, Daniel Ricciardo, Lando Norris, Carlos Sainz and George Russell have since spoken out to show support. 

On the one hand it is a shame it took for Hamilton to criticise his fellow F1 drivers for them to speak out. Then again, it is perhaps understandable there would be hesitance to deviate their social media platform into opinions of social issues. 

Ferrari driver Leclerc and Red Bull’s Alex Albon were among those who admitted they felt uneasy about voicing their opinion on the matter, perhaps somewhat understandably given the nature of social media and the PR-constrained world of F1 where digressing from the party-line can land you in trouble if you don’t have the clout or freedom a driver like Hamilton has.  

Albon, who was born in London but races under the Thai flag due to his mother’s roots, said he was “shielded” from racism thanks to his “privileged” upbringing and did not have to endure the sort of racial abuse that Hamilton suffered while growing up and throughout his journey to the summit of F1. 

“I grew up in a very privileged way, shielded away from any form of racism, whether it was at school, in my neighbourhood or racing,” Albon said. “I never experienced it and so I don’t really know how to put it into words.

“But I came to realise that this was part of the problem, staying silent wasn’t good enough and everyone should be able to experience how I grew up.

“With that being said, it’s never too late to change and to address what’s wrong, this is about justice and to stand up for racial equality.

“What happened to George Floyd is inexcusable, it’s a final straw for many and it’s our duty to reform and create a better world for all of us.”

F1 drivers cannot be blamed for wanting to avoid the murky and uncomfortable waters of politics, but the issue of racism is one of injustice and inequality which desperately needs addressing. It is a sad and disgraceful fact that any form of discrimination still exists in 2020. 

Given the lack of diversity and a clear white, male bias within F1 and motorsport as a whole, it is not surprising that Hamilton was the first to act. 

His actions might be the inspiration for F1 stars to feel they can speak out in the future. Perhaps it is now down to the teams and PR departments to provide a looser leash on how drivers conduct themselves on social media. 

Hamilton has once again proved he is a true F1 champion, not only on but off the track.

 

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