Lewis Hamilton has revealed that he and his father found themselves inspired by legendary tennis players Serena Williams and Venus Williams. The seven-time world champion uses his time away from the race track to push for greater diversity in motorsport.
Hamilton’s activism has been central to his personal brand in recent years with the 38-year-old setting up the Hamilton Commission with the aim of increasing the representation of Black people in the motorsport community within the UK.
After publishing the findings of the commission, Hamilton set up the Mission 44 foundation, which helps to support organisations and individuals that serve and assist young people from underprivileged communities and backgrounds.
Speaking to BBC Breakfast about the work done by Mission 44 and his inspirations, Hamilton said: “Me and my Dad remember growing up in Stevenage. We were watching the Williams sisters and all they had achieved and we sat and were so inspired and were like ‘Maybe when we get there we will do the same thing.’
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“So there’s a huge amount of work to increase diversity and gender equality and these are the things that we at Mission 44 hope to achieve.”
Serena and Venus are two of the most accomplished players in tennis history, collecting a combined 30 Grand Slam singles titles and 14 doubles titles while competing as a duo. Not only were they legends on the court, but they used their platform to push for change outside of sport too.
The pair have heavily pushed for equal pay and recognition for women in tennis and other sports, while Serena has regularly used her platform and social media channels to shine a spotlight on police violence against the Black community.
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Hamilton, who is carving out a similar legacy in the world of F1, was visiting a school in his hometown of Stevenage when he gave the BBC Breakfast interview. He explained: “I found it really difficult at school. I found it was not a happy experience for me.
“I remember vividly just how difficult it was and I have this amazing platform – and it would be a real waste not to utilise it. We need equal opportunity for these kids to come through and feel like there’s a home for them – or the career for them – within these industries.
“There are thousands and thousands of jobs, over 40,000 jobs within the industry [motorsport], and only 1% for example, come from Black backgrounds and there are very few women in the industry, which is also not enough.”
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