Lewis Hamilton is a symbol for change

Hamilton is a gifted driver and human being

By: Leona Stewart

As one of the greatest racers of all time, to the best of his era, Sir Lewis Hamilton’s influence in the motorsport world is incomparable

From breaking almost every record in the book to being the first black racing driver in history, and of course, being the poster boy for Formula 1, there is no doubt that the Brit is a true champion. 

While having over 100 race wins, and seven world championships to his name, matching that of Michael Schumacher, should be enough to make a career last a lifetime, Hamilton has made himself not only a hugely successful sportsperson but a global figure for equality. 

For years Formula 1 has stayed out of politics. As a sport that is dominated by rich white males, it lacks diversity, even in 2022. No women on the grid, almost all drivers come from a wealthy backgrounds – there are few minorities represented in the paddock. But Lewis Hamilton provides a voice for the silenced. 

In the wake of the 2020 Covid pandemic, where we saw the murder of George Floyd and Breonna Taylor hit the news, Lewis Hamilton had no hesitation in making sure his support was shown both on and off the grid. Providing the paddock with ‘END RACISM’ shirts and leading the way in taking the knee amongst the drivers, Hamilton broke his silence on inequality and from there his voice got louder. 

He funded a successful investigation into the lack of diversity in motorsport which sparked well-needed conversations within the field. 

Alongside Hamilton’s voice, we heard four-time world champion, Sebastian Vettel. The pair, once rivals, now fighting for joint causes have gone on to advocate for the LGBTQ+ community and women’s rights. 

Both drivers have continually spoken against what they do not believe in, no matter where they are. Prior to last year’s race in Hungary, Hamilton expressed his support for the LGBTQ+ community after the country passed a law allowing preventing any content on homosexuality or gender reassignment to be shown to those under 18 in schools.

Vettel sported rainbow shoes, mask, and t-shirts in support of gay pride, which he was reprimanded for wearing during the national anthem, to which he responded by saying he did not care. While Hamilton wore a rainbow helmet to show his support.

While to us these may seem like such small symbols, to see someone who you respect speak out about these issues where you cannot is the support that many minorities need.

While it is no secret that there is misogyny in the motorsport world, there is gradual change coming. In 2021 the Vettel created an all-female karting event for women in Saudi Arabia, where until 2018 women could not drive. Both drivers have expressed how uncomfortable racing in oppressing countries makes them.

Before its removal from the 2022 line-up, both Hamilton and Vettel made it clear that they did not wish to race in Russia, due to its ongoing conflict in Ukraine, with Vettel saying: “I should not go, I will not go. I think it’s wrong”. The race has since been canceled, and Russian driver Nikita Mazepin no longer races in F1.

Two esteemed world champions have brought Formula 1 into the modern world in a way that we must encourage. It is a privilege to be able to separate sports from politics and is not something many can enjoy. Perhaps seeing more of these millionaire drivers standing alongside Sir Lewis Hamilton and Sebastian Vettel would not only create more diversity in the sport but allow it to be safe and create the difference it has the potential to make. 

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