Following the detailed ‘Hamilton Commission’ report, Lewis Hamilton’s sustained efforts to introduce diversity into Formula 1 have hit a roadblock, with one team standing in his driving line.
The seven-time-world champion set up the aforementioned commission as a direct way to combat the racism he has faced as a black man in a white-dominated sport. As of 2022, 16 of the grid’s 20 drivers are white — with Hamilton himself being the only black driver in the history of the sport.
“F1 needs to do more,” he said. “All the teams need to do more. I think we are very close to getting this diversity inclusion charter going and I think there’s one team, still the same team, is not willing to engage. But I’m grateful to see that the other teams are willing to step forward and do the work.”
When asked as to whether he would be able to name the team in question, Hamilton decided to refrain from doing so.
“I don’t think it would be appropriate to name the team,” he said. “We’ve gone back and forth with them and for some reason they don’t want to, but all the other nine teams have, which is really encouraging.”
While Hamilton has his reasons to stay quiet about the team involved, BBC Sports’ Chief F1 writer Andrew Benson managed to dig up the truth.
The answer? Williams Racing, claims Benson.
According to a recent article penned after reports of racist, sexist, and homophobic abuse between fans at the last race in Austria, Williams responded directly against Hamilton’s claims — suggesting that they have not ever received the charter’s final copy.
“We last had conversations with the Royal Academy of Engineering back in March and we are awaiting further information from them on such an important topic, of which we at Williams Racing already have serious active programmes.
We have no knowledge of the progress and of who has and has not signed up to date, as it has been several months since we had any communication from them. Once we are in possession of further information and a copy of the final charter, we can look into it.”
What’s key to understand here is that while Hamilton is certainly the face of the Hamilton Commission’s work, Lewis himself isn’t actually handling the logistical and bureaucratic processes involved to get the charter signed by all ten teams — that responsibility falls to the concerned individuals working with the Royal Academy of Engineering.
The charter itself requires a massive amount of data analysis, and as such, the scholars involved carried out an intense review that considered the sport’s available surveys and literature, education and employment figures, and critically, a primary quantitative and qualitative research study involving 2,400 young people. In-depth interviews were also conducted with over 100 participants between 2020 and 2021, including representatives from each of F1’s 100 teams.
The goal is to ultimately break down the several systemic barriers against diversity within the sport, and allow for better career progression through scholarships, guidelines, and a revamped policy for apprenticeships in the industry. Hamilton will also pump money into an ‘innovation fund’, aiming to help directly combat factors that hold back young potential in black communities.
While it can be understood that the massive task of soliciting agreements from all the teams — including Williams, can be tedious, the report itself has been out for over a year at this point, with several teams and even F1 president Stefano Domenicali openly endorsing support for the Hamilton Commission charter.
“Of course, we are fully behind Lewis, fully signed up to the Hamilton Commission and sometimes actions speak louder than words,” said Red Bull boss Christian Horner, who manages Max Verstappen, Lewis’ current #1 rival.
Despite Hamilton’s concerted effort to dial back discrimination at every stage of the F1 career pathway, the situation still has plenty of room for improvement.
The aforementioned Austrian GP debacle, for instance, involved a degree of racially motivated abuse from a problematic subsect of fans — many of whom have dismissed Hamilton’s efforts as ‘woke bullshit’ on online forums.
The drivers haven’t taken this lying down, of course. Sergio Perez — who is the only Latin American driver on the grid — immediately called for such fans to be banned from racing events. “They are not welcome here. We should ban them for life because they don’t share our values. A few fans shouldn’t be able to embarrass our sport like that,” he stated.
Hamilton has a similar view of the phenomenon himself — one made personal back in November 2021 when 3-time champ (and Verstappen’s girlfriend’s father) Nelson Piquet hurled a racist slur at the driver, calling him a ‘neguinho’.
“I’m doing the most I can, I don’t know what else I can do,” admitted Hamilton during this Thursday’s press event, before calling on the media to raise progressive voices amongst fans.
“Not only us, the sport, those that write and report on what’s happening here. The sport wouldn’t be what it is without you. Your words are powerful and you have a responsibility to the readers to make sure that we’re progressing and moving in the right direction.”
Hamilton will return this Sunday to race in the French Grand Prix, racing with a newly upgraded Mercedes W13 alongside teammate George Russell. It will be the senior driver’s 300th Grand Prix start.
(Featured Image Credits: Formula 1)