‘I’d trade 7th world championship for greater diversity in F1’, says Hamilton
With a 30-point advantage going into the 70th Anniversary Grand Prix, Lewis Hamilton’s chances of taking a record-tying seventh world championship are looking very good indeed. But according to the Mercedes driver, he’d happily trade that seventh title if it meant seeing more diversity in Formula 1.
The growing prominence of the Black Lives Matter movement in 2020 has seen Hamilton emerge as a figurehead in pushing for change in Formula 1, taking a leading position in the sport’s End Racism campaign that's part of F1’s #WeRaceAsOne initiative. And Hamilton admitted at Silverstone that, while he was proud to be one of the most successful Formula 1 drivers the sport has ever produced, simply winning races and titles was no longer enough for him.
Speaking exclusively on F1 TV's pre-race show in the build up to the 70th Anniversary Grand Prix he said: “Winning championships is a great thing, and of course I’m going to push and see how far I can go with it, but I am the only black driver here, for whatever reason. I don’t know why I was chosen to be able to do what I do in the car, and it wasn’t somebody else.
"Things have happened along the way in my life, and I don’t think it’s a coincidence that I’m in the position I’m in today. But there was a point where I was like, ‘Jeez, just me being here is not enough. I’ve got to speak up. I could do more.’
“If I was to have retired a year ago, maybe nothing would have changed, I don’t know. But what I love to see right now is that there is this awakening, there are people slowly [changing] – still not everyone, you still have a lot of these teams that are not saying anything, not holding themselves accountable, there’s still a lot of people [like that] out there – but it’s finding a balance in how you engage those people, and yes, I hope in 10 years – I don’t want it to be like 20 years’ time, but I hope in a short space of time, I can see change.
“You’re seeing people already [engaging], you’re seeing Chase [Carey, Formula 1 CEO] and the sport, you’re seeing Jean [Todt, President of the FIA] who I’ve had a chat with, and who has hired a lady from Jamaica who’s now working on the diversity campaign for the FIA.
"So you’re seeing things but we need to stay on them and that’s I guess part of my job being here, I think, and that means more to me, because if I’m able to look back... and think, ‘Yeah, I won championships but I was a part of helping shift the outlook of this sport and making it more accessible to people all over the world’, I think that would be a great thing to be a part of.”
Meanwhile, asked if he would swap a seventh title to see more diversity in the sport, Hamilton replied: “For the change? Sure.”
Hamilton also spoke out against those who suggested that he should remain apolitical and focus solely on driving, saying: “I don’t ever listen to it. Telling me to stop one thing is not going to stop me doing it, and I hope for everybody out there, nobody can tell you what to do ultimately.
“I respect people’s opinions. The fact is, I live in this world – not just in this world [of F1], I live in the world and everybody’s opinion matters. The thing for me is that I say one thing and it travels very, very far. That’s an unbelievable power to have, that we have today in the media, being able to really push for change… I feel like I would be doing a disservice to people, to my family, to my followers if I didn’t.
“People like to say, ‘This is the way you have to be to be this. To be a champion, this is what you’ve got to look like, this is how you’re supposed to speak, this is how you’re supposed to behave’ and all these things,” added Hamilton.
“I do everything different, and everybody should because we are all different and what works for me is not going to work for the next person. So I look to encourage people: just be you and don’t let anybody dim your light.”