Renowned Formula 1 driver and seven-time World Drivers’ Champion, Lewis Hamilton, has released the results of his Commission into diversity within F1. The results can’t be said to be surprising.
Lewis Hamilton is the first and so far, the only Black driver in Formula 1. When Hamilton won the Championship in 2019, he saw the end of season photo and noticed very few Black figures. It was at this time Hamilton felt he had to do something.
Hamilton told HYPEBEAST that he thought that just being there and winning would be enough to change things but that hasn’t turned out to be true.
“At the end of 2019, I’d won championship after championship, and I thought that being there I would help break the mould and encourage more people to get involved. But it has not done that, so I realised that I had to take the wheel, I had to do more. I had to find out what the barriers are so I can present them to the key stakeholders and take them on a journey.”
So Hamilton launched the Hamilton Commission last June in partnership with the Royal Academy of Engineering. The Commission’s goal is to make British motorsports “as diverse as the complex and multicultural world we live in.”
It’s been 10 months of research and interviews with over 700 Black adults and 80 motorsport stakeholders. And the results? The Commission found that only 1% of the 40,000 people employed in F1 came from Black backgrounds. If you’ve ever watched the sport, this probably doesn’t shock you, or maybe you never noticed, but that’s precisely the problem the Commission is highlighting.
“We discovered some systemic issues that still exist, that education is key, and that in the educational system there are a lot of barriers,” said Hamilton. “I didn’t want to be one of those people making noise or having a commission that doesn’t do anything.”
He certainly has kept his word; the Commission has made ten recommendations to the FIA (F1’s governing body) and other bodies in motorsport with Hamilton personally funding some of these recommendations. These include working with Black community groups, increasing apprenticeships, implementing a Diversity and Inclusion Charter, and increasing the number of Black teachers in STEM subjects that lead to careers in engineering.
It isn’t just an inclusion issue either. The Commission revealed that it’s the little things too. Rhys Morgan, director of the Royal Academy, said they found examples of “horrible racist comments” that were dismissed as “banter.”
Lewis Hamilton isn’t alone either. His team at Mercedes have been incredibly supportive. His latest contract with the team will see them partnered to create a diversity-focused joint charitable foundation. The support has come in forms as simple as the changing of the colours of the car’s livery to black in support, sacrificing Mercedes’ racing nickname “Silver Arrows.”
“My team changed the car to black from silver, and we’ve got diversity and inclusion training, which I took first, because we can always learn more,” said Hamilton.
The Commission found that the issues preventing diversity in motorsport were beyond just the industry as Hamilton stated,
“What we’ve realised is how far-reaching and systemic the barriers to young Black students pursuing STEM subjects are. We’re not just looking to improve within motorsport, but there’s no real surprise that the issues of racism and unconscious bias are ingrained everywhere.”
The Commission seems to be having some early success too with Formula 1 CEO Stefani Domenicali saying that change is coming. “There’s a lot more to come later in the month, but this is really just the beginning and I want to say that I couldn’t be more excited. The time to change is now.”
Given that Formula 1 is supposed to be an international sport, celebrating and inviting people from all around the world to enjoy it, it makes sense that they would be committed to improving their diversity.
The difficulties they may face may come from the cost of the sport which limits the kinds of people that can pursue a career specifically as a driver. Formula 1 is a very expensive sport and that is often why so many of the drivers come from wealthy backgrounds. Lance Stroll, Nikita Mazepin, and Nicholas Latifi all come from extremely wealthy backgrounds. And that isn’t to say that none of them earned their positions in F1, but they were afforded opportunities and resources that many people don’t have access to.
Not to mention the business aspect of the sport. Some drivers are put in seats to bankroll a team. Look at Haas. They have been struggling on the grid for the past two years at least and as a result, sponsors dropped their support. The team needed a reason for sponsors to return and have confidence in their chances of success. So they brought on Mick Schumacher, the son of one of the greatest drivers in F1. This drums up some hype and gives confidence to investors. And sometimes, those investors have sons that can drive, enter Mazepin, whose father pays a lot of Haas’s bills. This is not to say that they don’t belong in F1 but it is an unfortunate reality of the sport that will prove a major hurdle for the Hamilton Commission to overcome.
Thankfully, things are looking positive for the future of the sport and we’re excited to see what happens.