Lewis Hamilton has brought his hugely successful year to a close by reflecting on the emotions that drove him to take such a committed stand against racism. Hamilton is the guest editor on Boxing Day’s Today programme on Radio 4, which will include the world champion sharing his thoughts on Black Lives Matter and diversity with the historian David Olusoga.
Hamilton won his seventh world drivers’ championship this season, matching Michael Schumacher’s record but away from the track, following the killing of George Floyd, he became strident in his activism against racial injustice, a cause he said spurred him on to achieve success.
He said: “I had this extra drive in me this year to get to the end of those races. It was a different drive than what I’ve had in me in the past … to get to the end of those races first so that I could utilise that platform [for Black Lives Matter] and shine the light as bright as possible.”
Hamilton led F1 into adopting a diversity initiative and holding a pre-race anti-racism gesture on the grid. He wore T-shirts promoting Black Lives Matter, equality and diversity and bringing attention to the shooting of Breonna Taylor by police in the US. He used his position as a globally recognised star to speak out repeatedly on the topics.
The 35-year-old, who has yet to sign a new contract with Mercedes for next season, insisted that the sense he was doing the right thing inspired him to stand up and be counted despite criticism from some quarters. “There is no way that I could stay silent,” he said. “And once I said that to myself, I didn’t hold any fear.”
Alongside bringing his status to bear in fighting racism he established the Hamilton Foundation this year with the Royal Academy of Engineering, to encourage young black people to enter motor racing and engineering. Hamilton is F1’s only black driver and he believed the project was needed to improve the diversity of the sport across the board.
“There are many other young kids of colour that deserve the opportunity to progress, have a great education, be an engineer or whatever it is they want,” he said. “But the fact is, the opportunity is not the same for them.”
Having equalled Schumacher and now holding the highest number of wins and pole positions Hamilton is the most successful driver in F1 history. He was awarded an MBE after winning his first title in 2008 and is expected to be knighted in the 2021 new year honours list.