For Lewis Hamilton, returning home to his Formula 1 living room at Silverstone should actually be a source of strength. But the violent fuss about racist statements by three-time world champion Nelson Piquet is now hitting an open wound for the superstar and the motorsport scene.
“It was enough time to learn. Now it’s time to act,” warned the 37-year-old, who is not progressing fast enough in the fight against discrimination and for more diversity in the racing series.
In the days before the British Grand Prix on Sunday (4 p.m. / RTL and Sky), motorsport was shaken by several derailments. Hamilton had just publicly joined the black TV reporter Naomi Schiff. The racing driver, who has a German father, was exposed to severe hostilities on the Internet. “There is still a long way to go to change attitudes in this sport,” Hamilton wrote.
A racist statement by the Red Bull substitute driver Jüri Vips in an Internet stream also caused a stir. The racing team therefore parted ways with the Estonian this week. In the Formula 2 junior class, however, the 21-year-old is allowed to finish the season for the Hitech team. “A surprising decision that we would not have made,” said the Formula 2 leadership.
According to the media, there is now no more room for ex-champion Piquet in the paddock. The Brazilian should therefore be deprived of his lifelong access to the Formula 1 circus. At the beginning of the week, an interview with the 69-year-old appeared in which he denigrated Hamilton. Piquet apologized for his choice of words, but denied a racist background.
The incident is also explosive because Piquet is the father of Max Verstappen’s partner Kelly. With Verstappen, Mercedes driver Hamilton fought a sometimes tough title fight in the previous season. A crash at Silverstone last year brought the duel to a boil. While many drivers and teams assured their solidarity with Hamilton after Piquet’s statements became known, Verstappen’s employer Red Bull remained silent.
However, it was also noticeable that racing teams and pilots did not mention the name Piquet in the public statements. Some observers criticized that the racing series did not want to specifically name the problem in its own environment and took refuge in generalities.
Hamilton said he had been surrounded by such attitudes all his life and had been repeatedly targeted. “These are outdated views that have to change and have no place in our sport,” emphasized the record champion, who is struggling to catch up with the top athletes this season.
Last year, a commission he initiated for more equal opportunities in motorsport found that some black engineers in Formula 1 were still reporting unpleasant experiences. Less than one percent of the thousands employed in the racing series are black. Hamilton is still the only black driver in Formula 1 history.
In the fight against racism and unequal opportunities, Formula 1 launched the “We race as one” initiative at the start of the 2020 season. With a lot of money for training and new jobs for minorities, the racing series should become more diverse and inclusive.