Lewis Hamilton: “It shouldn’t be to me to brush racism off”

© LAT Images for Mercedes-Benz Grand Prix Ltd

After Nelson Piquet used a racial slur against Lewis Hamilton, the Briton says there hasn’t been a day when older F1 personalities “haven’t been saying negative things and trying to bring me down”.

After an audio clip of three-time F1 champion Nelson Piquet using a racial slur when referring to Lewis Hamilton surfaced, the Briton came to Silverstone with a clear message he wanted to send to the whole Formula 1 world.

“Well firstly, I’m incredibly grateful to all those that have been supportive within the sport, particularly the drivers,” Hamilton said.

“You know, it’s been two years since many of us took the knee at the first race in Austria and, of course, we’re still faced with the challenges.

“I’ve been on the receiving end of racism, criticism, negativity, archaic narratives and undertones of discrimination for a long, long time, and 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. They’re speaking upon our sport and we’re looking to go somewhere completely different.

“If we’re looking to grow in the US, other countries, South Africa, we need to look to the future and give the younger people a platform, who are more representative of today’s time.

“It’s not just about one individual, it’s not about the one use of that term, it’s the bigger picture.”

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Hamilton also mentioned recent comments from other older F1 personalities like Sir Jackie Stewart, who called for Lewis’ retirement, and former F1 boss Bernie Ecclestone, who defended Piquet.

“It just comes back down to F1, the media, we should not be giving these people a platform. Discrimination is not something we should be projecting and promoting, giving a platform to divide people.

“We need to be bringing people together, we are all the same. It is not helpful, the comments we are seeing from some people.

“I don’t think there’s been a day gone by where people who are older – who haven’t been relevant in our sport for decades – haven’t been saying negative things and trying to bring me down.

“But I’m still here, I’m still standing strong, I’m focused on my work and really trying to push for diversity and inclusion in our organisation.”

Asked if he had lost respect for these ‘older voices’, Lewis said:

“I’ve always tried to take the high road, I’ve always tried to be respectful to these individuals. But as I was saying before, why do we give these guys a platform? They’re not with the times, they’re clearly not willing to change.

“These times of discrimination and micro aggressions, in today’s world it’s just not helpful and it’s creating more divide.

“I love how Michelle Obama says ‘when they go low, go high’ so I try to continue to do that, I’m inspired by people like that.

“I’m still here, it’s not going to deter me from what I think is right and doing what I love, which is working in this sport.”

Hamilton also said he cannot fight the fight against racism, and for diversity, alone.

“It’s not good enough just saying we are also focused on it, just lip service, we really need to push for action.

“That’s why I’m proud of the first step we’ve done with Ignite, and that’s not the end of it, it’s just the beginning.

“I’ve got Mission 44 [a charitable foundation] up and running, I’ve got a whole team working on it, I’ve got my own money in that and I’m out trying to raise money to push this.

“I’ve got partnerships with Sky, there’s a lot of great work that’s happening. But we need more, and I can’t do it alone.

“Enough is enough, I try to take the high road but no one should have to brush off racism and it shouldn’t be to me to brush it off.

“We need organisations to take a stand,” Lewis concluded.

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