Lewis Hamilton has undergone diversity and inclusion training in an effort to gain a greater understanding of racial equality that has been highlighted in recent months, and stressed that “society is just so behind” in how it tackles racism.
The reigning Formula One champion has been one of sport’s most vocal voices in tackling racism, having called on motorsport to do more to address its lack of diversity and inclusion and launching his own commission to open up avenues for people from under-represented backgrounds to seize more opportunities.
Hamilton has taken a knee before all five races this season and has raised his fist in an apparent ‘Black Power’ salute, with others joining him to send a message that the sport is against racism.
While his calls for more to be done have been acted on - with the FIA launching a new diversity campaign that Formula One chief executive Chase Carey donated $1m towards - there remains plenty of work to do to open up a sport that is dominated by white males.
In an attempt to broaden his understanding of what is right and wrong, Hamilton took part in a training session that was organised by his Mercedes team, which was made available for their entire workforce.
“One thing I’m really proud of with my team is that is that we’ve obviously made the step and a statement with our car, but these past couple of weeks they’ve found a company that is doing diversity inclusion training, so I went and had a session with them,” Hamilton told Sky Sports.
“It’s incredible, because I’m open to learning - I’m not perfect - and so just learning what is right, and I feel that the whole of society is just so behind and the things people were saying back when I was at school about so many different races, you look back and you think ‘oh my god that was terrible back then’, but it is still evidently there and it’s how can we change it?
“I think as a sport, we have this platform, we have these people that tune in and watch and yes it’s supposed to be an entertaining experience, but there’s no reason why there can’t be an element of it that is educating. I’ve gone home and watched the Grand Prix at the weekend when we have hours to take up - some people are just talking for ages or playing remote control cars in the paddock - but you can actually be saying something and teaching people something and it is about educating these kids.”
Mercedes have been prominent in their desire to follow Hamilton’s lead and find new ways to combat diversity problems that lie in the sport. The team announced before the start of the season that they had replaced their usual Silver Arrows design with an all-black paint scheme in support of the Black Lives Matter movement, while the entire team took a knee with Hamilton in Austria earlier in the season. Many in the team continue to do so at each race.
Hamilton was speaking in an interview with former F1 drive Karun Chandhok, who came up through the British motorsport ranks with the six-time champion as one of few drivers from a Black, Asian or minority ethnic background.
The Indian driver, who now presents for Sky Sports after a successful transition from driver to broadcaster, admitted that he had never really considered what it meant to race on an all-white grid or compete in a predominantly-white paddock, but Hamilton had a message of support for Chandhok that he also wanted to send to everyone who follows the sport and feels passionate about combating racism.
“Don’t underestimate how powerful your voice is,” Hamilton added. “I know you’re talking about your family and that, but there are people listening and watching. Each and every single one of us has a voice, and don’t think that because one has more followers than another it makes them more powerful than the other. You can do so much in supporting people.”