Lewis Hamilton has revealed the “difficult conversations” he had with Mercedes boss Toto Wolff at the start of his push to improve diversity and inclusion in F1.
The seven-time world champion, who remains the only black driver to have competed in F1, has campaigned to increase diversity in motorsport. Hamilton championed the Black Lives Movement by taking the knee at races throughout 2020 and has since established the Mission 44 foundation and Ignite, a joint enterprise with his Mercedes team.
Mercedes switched the colours of their cars from silver to black for the 2020 and 2021 seasons in a stand against racism and discrimination, at Hamilton’s suggestion. “I was winning which gave me a tip of happiness but there was something missing,” Hamilton told the On Purpose podcast. “It was a purpose. Why was I put here? Why do I have this platform? Why am I the only person of colour?
“When I started speaking about diversity people said: ‘You want more people of colour to become drivers’. “No – there are thousands of engineering jobs too, and such a lack of diversity. I want to be a part of shifting that narrative. “At first I started by having difficult conversations with my boss. “One of the things which he brings up, which he says hit him hard – I said: ‘Have you ever thought about walking into the paddock and being the only white person?’ “He said: ‘I had never thought of that’.
“I said: ‘That is what it’s like for someone like me. You are noticed. In a room of 50 people you are noticed as the only black person’. “It’s not because we are less. It is because there are barriers in society. My job is to be empowering. “Black equity as well – that’s why I am involved with the Denver Broncos. “Every partner that we have, I have asked very difficult questions to.
“I have grown close to Mercedes-Benz. We changed the car from silver to black. I said to them: ‘Imagine the message we could send’. “We won with it. That’s how I won my seventh world title, with that car.” After one of the most challenging years of his career, Hamilton is aiming to return to winning ways as he prepares to embark on his 17th season in F1.