Lewis Hamilton says people should ‘earn position’ as star speaks out on diversity in F1

Lewis Hamilton vowed to keep fighting against racial injustice as he was named the most influential black person in the UK. The newly crowned seven-time Formula One world champion topped the Powerlist 2021, the annual list of the most powerful people of African, African Caribbean and African American heritage in the UK. Appearing on BBC Breakfast on Thursday, the UK champion said: “We have another big, big fight to win, and that’s for racial equality across the board.

“And diversity within my sport, which I thought I would have helped achieve just by being here, but that’s not the case.”

Asked whether Formula One companies should look into hiring more people from minority backgrounds, he replied: “I think that’s a difficult question because you want people to earn their position.

“So no one wants to be handed it, and we don’t want to create a position or hire those minorities for the sake of filling the space.

“We want to create an opportunity so that individuals are educated to earn the right.”

Grime artist Stormzy, footballer Marcus Rashford and I Will Destroy You star Michaela Coel were also included on the list, which is now in its 15th year.

Hamilton was recognised for his achievements both on and off the track, having spent 2020 not only adding another world title to his collection but by speaking powerfully in support of racial justice.

Those on the list were celebrated at the Black Excellence Awards 2020, hosted by playwright and Young Vic Artistic Director Kwame Kwei-Armah.

Accepting the honour, Hamilton said he was “humbled”.

He said: “Like many of you, I have experienced racism my whole life, from being called names when I was a kid to having a group of people turn up at the race in black faces, saying they were my family.”

That was a reference to a 2008 incident in Spain. “It’s sadly been a part of life,” Hamilton said.

He also reflected on the worldwide protests against racism that erupted following the death of George Floyd in May.

Hamilton said: “Racism is something I’ve always spoken out about but there have been times when I felt I was pushing up against a system that was so big that it would never change. And then 2020, it happened.

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“This year has been a really difficult one in so many ways and the constant stories of racial injustice has been traumatising for many of us.

“But as a community we have responded in a way that has been incredibly inspiring. In my life I have never seen so many people stand up and take a stand against injustice.

“And it is the power of our community, holding mass protests and making their voices heard that sparked this global movement.

“To be nominated as your number one most influential person in a year like this is not something I take lightly.”

Hamilton added: “I promise you I will keep fighting alongside you until our voices are heard and until we live in a world that treats everyone equally, no matter their background or the colour of their skin.”

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