Lewis Hamilton says winning this season’s Formula One world championship against the backdrop of his personal fight against racism will rank as the ultimate triumph.
Hamilton begins his assault on matching Michael Schumacher’s record of seven titles at Spielberg’s Red Bull Ring this weekend – three and a half months after the campaign failed to get off the ground at the coronavirus-hit Australian Grand Prix.
The 35-year-old British driver has become an increasingly vocal figure on the Black Lives Matter movement during his enforced time away from the track, attending a march in London last month while encouraging his Mercedes team to ditch their traditional silver livery for black this year.
“Winning the title would mean more, given that it is such a momentous year in a sense of this pandemic, which we are still very much in and we are still fighting,” said Hamilton, who was wearing a mandatory face mask.
“On a personal level, the Black Lives Matter movement and fight against inequality and injustice is so important. It is not going to change in our time for our generation, but for our kids’ kids it is such an important moment for us.
“So, winning a world title during that moment of time will be even more significant than before.”
Hamilton refused to confirm whether he and his fellow drivers will take a knee in the moments before Sunday’s race, but it is expected that a show of solidarity is likely to be choreographed to demonstrate the sport is united in the battle against racism.
Hamilton had been critical of both his peers and the sport for initially failing to speak up about the matter, provoking a number of them – including Ferrari’s Charles Leclerc and young British driver Lando Norris – to post anti-racism statements on social media.
Hamilton will run the End Racism message on his Mercedes, while he and team-mate Valtteri Bottas also unveiled on Thursday the new black racing suits they will use this season. Hamilton then suggested rival teams could be doing more.
“I have not heard anything from any of the other teams,” he added.
“The call-out on social media was for everyone in this industry. There are very few opportunities shown to minorities, so more needs to be done for sure.
“I will not stop pushing until we really see change. Seeing one face of colour added to the paddock is not diversity, so we need to dig deep, pull together and do what we can to shift this.
“There are a lot of people who take a moment to post on social media for the Blackout Tuesday campaign but then are not really doing much. It is not enough to then go back to your regular lives.
“Black people don’t have the privilege to be able to take a moment out. The industry has to stay on top of it. Our voices are powerful and if you bring them together as a collective we can have a huge impact.”