Lewis Hamilton said that fighting racism would now become a “lifelong” endeavor for him, as he praised his team and criticized opponents for their support, or lack thereof, for the Black Lives Matter, of which he has been a vocal supporter.
Hamilton, 35, is one of Britain’s most successful sportsmen ever – a six-time world Formula 1 champion. Sunday’s race in Austria was his 85th career win, only six short of Michael Schumacher’s record. He is also the only black racing driver in the series.
Mercedes, his team, joined him before his latest race victory at the Styrian Grand Prix victory in Austria by taking the knee in solidarity with the Black Lives Matter movement. The team is also running its cars in black, rather than their usual silver, as part of its campaign.
Hamilton told Sports Broadcaster: “It’s not something I asked for them to do, but it’s a beautiful thing. It doesn’t take a lot to do something like that, and it’s not changing the world, but perhaps shifting perceptions and shifting ideals. We’ll just keep going.”
The Brit performed the black power salute – the right fist clenched in the air – twice: once on top of his Mercedes car, and a second time on the podium, making for powerful images that were widely shared on social media.
Before the Styrian Grand Prix, Hamilton took the knee alongside 11 other drivers. While all drivers wore anti-racism t-shirts for the second race in a row – four drivers stood, refusing to kneel, and four others were not present.
The decisions made by those four drivers sparked renewed debate over whether Formula 1 was showing the same commitment and unity to anti-racism as the Premier League and cricket.
– ‘Ending racism’
Hamilton, while praising his own team, said other teams had to do more, singling out Ferrari.
“Formula One has come forward and said they are supporting ending racism, and it is amazing to see Mercedes are also doing that, but no other team has done a single thing,” said Hamilton.
“Red Bull mechanics have taken a knee, but if you look at Ferrari they have thousands of people working for them, but I have heard no word of Ferrari saying that they hold themselves accountable, and what they are going to do in the future.”
“A lot of work needs to go on in F1, the FIA need to be part of it, the drivers need to be a part of it. We are going to be fighting and pushing for it all year,” he said. “For me personally, this is going to be a lifelong thing.”
“We spoke about taking a knee in the drivers’ briefing and what we intended to do. Some were asking how long we have to continue to do this. Some felt like doing it once last week was enough,” he said.
“I just had to encourage them and say that racism is going to be around for longer than our time here. People of colour who are subjected to racism don’t have time to take a moment to protest once and then for that to be it.”
Hamilton called for continued efforts to push for equality and raise awareness of racism.