How Black Lives Matter Has Dominated This F1 Season
The conversations around the ‘Black Lives Matter’ campaign has made its way into every aspect of society, and Formula One is no exception to that. It’s one of the sports where the conversation has been pushed to the forefront thanks to Lewis Hamilton’s actions throughout the season, from taking the knee to publicly criticising inaction within the sport.
Lewis Hamilton is the only black driver in Formula One, and is using his unique position to push forward the agenda of Black Lives Matters and has called on every F1 team to take action to fight against racism in the sport. Hamilton gave the black power salute after winning the Styrian Grand Prix in Austria, both when he got out of his car and again on the podium, and has pledged to spend his life fighting against racism.
Speaking after the Styrian race in July, Lewis said that “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. For me this is going to be a lifelong thing”. Looking to the pipeline as a way of tackling the issues within the sport, Hamilton has established a commission along with the Royal Academy of Engineering to engage young black people with motor race engineering.
It is a cause close to Hamilton’s heart, who has spoken of his pride at Mercedes standing beside him in his fight for racial injustice. In a mark of solidarity with the cause, Mercedes swapped out the classic silver livery of their iconic race cars to black for the 2020 season. While Hamilton has worn a ‘Black Lives Matter’ shirt during the season, other drivers have opted for the ‘End Racism’ t-shirt instead.
Several drivers have joined Hamilton in taking the knee in protest, with fourteen of them taking the knee ahead of the Austrian GP earlier in the season. At every race, we have seen some drivers take the knee while others have chosen to stand, which means that there hasn’t been the same collective action that we have seen in other sports like the Premier League.
Lewis Hamilton has been open with his criticism of what he perceives as widespread inaction within the sport. In particular singling out Ferrari, stating that “I’ve heard no word from Ferrari saying they hold themselves accountable. We need the teams to do that. Everyone needs to pull together”. Ahead of the Portuguese Grand Prix, Hamilton publicly criticised the decision of the FIA to appoint former Renault driver Vitaly Petrov as a steward for that race. During the Tuscan Grand Prix weekend, Hamilton opted for a t-shirt with the statement ‘Arrest the cops who killed Breonna Taylor’ which was met by criticism from Petrov who said it was “too much”.
As the season progresses, we can be sure that the Black Lives Matter conversation will continue within Formula One under the pressure of Lewis Hamilton who some media outlets believe is on a solo mission to change the sport for the better.