The Hamilton Commission suggests that key barriers to young Black people considering a career in motorsport centre around self-identityJen_ross83/Wikimedia Commons

Rivalries are one of the most important aspects of a sport’s popularity and success. Aside from obviously helping to motivate competitors, opposition provides a gripping narrative that can attract an extensive audience. It is therefore unsurprising that Formula 1 has been the venue for some of the most iconic rivalries in modern sport, from James Hunt and Niki Lauda to Ayrton Senna and Alain Prost. Alongside such competitive conflicts, vitriol follows virtually all professional drivers throughout their career, sometimes due to passion from rival fans or otherwise a consequence of poor behaviour on or off the track. Yet, the abuse that Lewis Hamilton has faced dates back to his pre-teen karting days, and now it is the British driver who has taken the most comprehensive step towards fighting discrimination in F1 through the recently published Hamilton Commission.

The Commission’s analysis of the F1 workforce, as well as diversity in STEM education, has shed some much-needed light on how the sport has failed to make adequate progress towards racial equality. Despite data showing that over 80% of engineering organisations believe diversity fuels innovation, discussions with HR managers revealed that less than 1% of F1’s working personnel are from BAME backgrounds.

“senior managers running F1 businesses are yet to catch up with correctly tackling racism”

The closer inspection offered by the report reveals an evident lack of commitment to addressing racism and discrimination on a structural level, but even a casual spectator can witness the sport’s apparent indifference to such problems. In response to the worldwide Black Lives Matter protests last year, Hamilton was a strong advocate for drivers taking a knee in support of the cause. However, the fact that several high-profile drivers, including Charles Leclerc, Max Verstappen, and Fernando Alonso refused to do so was not a good look for F1, especially when collective gestures have successfully occurred in sports such as cricket and football

More recently, following the high-speed crash between Hamilton and Verstappen at the British Grand Prix, Red Bull Team Principal Christian Horner acknowledged that the hateful comments directed at Hamilton were intolerable, but in the same breath remarked: “Oh and, by the way, Max was also receiving abuse as well”. This unhelpful false equivalence has been likened to the All Lives Matter movement, which implies that the senior managers running F1 businesses are yet to catch up with correctly tackling racism.

Of course, it would be wrong to claim that any sport is truly close to winning the fight against discrimination, but constant PR disasters in F1, alongside a general observation that Hamilton remains the only Black person to be seen in the paddock most weekends, raises the question of why the sport is doing so badly.

“British media’s double standards exemplify the lack of support given to Hamilton”

In comparison, the racist abuse that Marcus Rashford, Jadon Sancho, and Bukayo Saka received immediately after Italy’s win over England in the Euro 2020 final was widely and powerfully condemned across the internet. On the other hand, backlash directed at Hamilton after the British Grand Prix failed to even unite F1 fans in comment sections on social media, let alone garner the deserved attention of the general public. Although it’s clear that a Grand Prix is never going to attract the viewership ratings of a football final, it’s equally difficult to fathom why the problems faced by such a recognised British sports personality have largely gone unaddressed.

Hamilton’s celebrity status has often rubbed fans the wrong way, especially when he is found promoting more eco-friendly, sustainable lifestyles on his social media. Meanwhile, national tabloids love to depict him as a globetrotter who builds his fortune in the relatively tax-free luxury of Monaco, despite the fact that this description could apply to a large number of the F1 grid. The British media’s double standards exemplify the lack of support given to Hamilton, as they largely ignore his affliction in favour of amplifying negativity.


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This is why the Commission is paramount in not only protecting the welfare of Hamilton, but also developing the sport in general. It provides detailed evidence to suggest that the discrimination of BAME individuals in the F1 hierarchy is not coincidental, it is instead rooted in systemic racism. Aside from extortionate ticket prices serving as a social barrier to access, many young adults are simply not pursuing engineering educations, as the report estimates that just 200 Black students per year graduate from Russell Group universities in a subject of interest to motorsport organisations.

On this point, the Commission has already prompted positive change, as universities such as Cambridge and Coventry have created new engineering scholarships in response to F1’s failings. In the paddock, most teams have answered the report by pledging to increase diversity and tackle under-representation, while F1 chiefs are reportedly ready to act on the findings. Time will tell if these promises come to fruition, but it is apparent that Hamilton and other campaigners have woken F1 up to the real and pressing problems that it faces, stressing the importance of working proactively to address issues rather than hesitantly reacting to them.