Lewis Hamilton would be prepared to miss out on becoming the joint most-successful driver in the history of F1 to ensure real change happens at the top level of motorsport. Hamilton is now just one World Drivers’ Championship away from matching Michael Schumacher’s record haul of seven.
The Mercedes driver has enjoyed a strong start to the 2020 season and is favourite to scoop his fourth title in a row this year.
Hamilton’s on-track achievements are not his only efforts which deserve immense credit, though, with the Brit working to end systemic racism and discrimination which shapes the make up of F1 and impacts wider society.
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Hamilton, who remains the only black driver to have competed in F1, is pushing for greater diversity and, ultimately, equality in motorsport.
The 35-year-old says playing a part in bringing about positive change going forward now outweighs any more success he might enjoy as a driver.
NEW: Lewis Hamilton responds to critics of fight against racism
“I am the only black driver here, for whatever reason, I don’t know why I was chosen to be able to do what I do in the car and it wasn’t somebody else,” Hamilton tells F1TV. “Things have happened along the way in my life and I don’t think it’s a coincidence that I’m in the position I’m in today.
“There was a point where I was like: ‘Geez, just me being here is not enough. I’ve got to speak up. I could do more.’ If I was to have retired a year ago, maybe nothing would have changed. I don’t know.
“But what I love to see right now, there is this awakening. There are people slowly [awakening], still not everyone. Still a lot of these teams have not said anything or held themselves accountable. There’s still a lot of people out there. It’s finding the balance and how you engage those people.
“I hope in 10 years – I don’t want it to be in 20 years’ time – I hope in a short space of time we can see change. I’m seeing people [change] already.
“You’re seeing [F1 chief executive] Chase [Carey] and the sport. You’re seeing [FIA president] Jean [Todt], who’ve had a chat with and who’s hired a lady from Jamaica, who’s now working on the diversity campaign for the FIA.
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“So you’re seeing things, but we need to stay on them. And that’s part of my job, being here, I think and that means more to me. Because, if I’m able to look back in a year’s time and think: ‘Yeah, I won championships but I was a part of helping shift the outlook of this sport and making it more accessible to people all over the world’. I think that would be a great thing to be a part of.”
Asked if he would swap winning a record-equalling seventh title for more diversity in F1, Hamilton says: “For the change? Sure.”
Hamilton is setting up a commission in his name to look into the reasons behind the lack of diversity in motorsport.
And he plans to find pathways for people from a broader array of backgrounds to be able to get involved in the industry.
F1 and the FIA have set up their own We Race As One initiative to end discrimination and bring about equality in the years to come.
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