Mercedes F1 driver Lewis Hamilton, the first and only black driver to compete in the sport, has been working towards increasing diversity in the sport and has had “difficult conversations” with his boss Toto Wolff to achieve this goal.
During an appearance on the On Purpose podcast, the seven-time champion spoke about using his platform to bring more awareness to the issue of diversity and inclusion in F1. Hamilton has been a vocal advocate for the Black Lives Matter movement, pushing for drivers to take a knee before races during the 2022 season as a sign of solidarity. He also played a key role in Mercedes’ decision to change their 2020 and 2021 cars to black instead of silver as a stand against racism.
Hamilton explained, “I was winning which gave me a tip of happiness but there was something missing. It was a purpose. Why was I put here? Why do I have this platform? Why am I the only person of colour? When I started speaking about diversity people said: ‘You want more people of colour to become drivers’. No – there are thousands of engineering jobs too, and such a lack of diversity. I want to be a part of shifting that narrative.”
The F1 legend went on to reveal how he initiated the conversation with Wolff. He said,
“At first, I started by having difficult conversations with my boss. One of the things which he brings up, which he says hit him hard – I said: ‘Have you ever thought about walking into the paddock and being the only white person?’ He said: ‘I had never thought of that’. I said: ‘That is what it’s like for someone like me. You are noticed. In a room of 50 people you are noticed as the only black person’. It’s not because we are less. It is because there are barriers in society. My job is to be empowering.”
Recently, the FIA has put a ban on drivers making personal, religious, or political statements during race weekends without prior approval. Hamilton has not yet directly commented on this.
Hamilton’s dedication to increasing diversity and inclusivity within the sport is commendable, and his willingness to have difficult conversations with his team and partners to bring about change is a testament to his leadership. With Hamilton’s continued advocacy and efforts, the sport of Formula One will hopefully become more inclusive and representative of society as a whole.