Ending Racism in Formula 1
Formula 1 takes on one of its biggest challenges yet in 2020.
The 2020 Formula One season has been different for a lot of different reasons. The calendar is shorter and includes races at tracks we haven't been to in a long time. The midfield battle has been spiced up dramatically and we have more triple headers this year than ever before. But there is one other fundamental way that Formula 1 has changed this year - the stand it has taken against racism.
Back in May, George Floyd was killed by police in Minneapolis in the United States. His death sparked and reignited outrage throughout the world and saw millions taking to the streets to support the Black Lives Matter cause. Amongst these supporters was Lewis Hamilton. Since then, Formula 1 has become involved with the fight against racism. At the opening race in Austria, Hamilton and some of his fellow drivers took the knee before the start of the Grand Prix and have continued to do so at every event since then. Mercedes also issued a statement in full support of Hamilton and changed their cars' livery to highlight their dedication to the cause.
Photo Credit: Mercedes Media Database.
At the Hungarian Grand Prix, the peaceful demonstration prior to the race felt rushed, as if people were trying to sweep the issue aside. But after internal communications, this was rightly rectified and since then, Hamilton and all the drivers on the grid have come together to make a collective stand against racism. Not all drivers have taken the knee (a universal sign of the BLM movement) but all have been present and stood alongside those drivers. Team members up and down the grid have also joined in with this too, helping to show that the entire F1 community is dedicated to helping fight racism - both inside and outside of the sport.
Some critics have said that social justice issues such as this shouldn't be brought into Formula 1 and that it's not the place to demonstrate against this. But Formula 1 is not the only sport to do this. Both Football and Basketball have also taken similar action. On 26th August 2020, NBA players made history when they went on strike in the wake of yet another case of police shooting a black man unnecessarily, forcing the match to be postponed. As athletes at the top of their sport, this was the only way they felt they could get their voices heard. They didn't want to do it but they felt that they didn't have a choice. Formula 1 has not yet boycotted any races due to similar reasons but some believe it's a possibility for the future.
Formula 1 has always been a predominantly white male sport and whilst there have been drivers of mixed backgrounds in the past and as time has gone on, there is more diversity present behind the scenes as well, more can be done. Formula 1 is known for having some of the best drivers in the world, being notoriously difficult to get into and only those with the best abilities will be able to get a chance to race for an F1 team. There are a number of drivers on the 2020 grid that wouldn't be where they are if they weren't paid drivers - i.e. drivers who pay the team a substantial amount of money so that they can race for them. This takes the already hard to come by opportunities to race in Formula 1 away from those who are perhaps more deserving simply because they can't buy their way into a team.
To help combat this, Lewis Hamilton has announced the launch of The Hamilton Commission, a new research partnership aimed at making motorsport “as diverse as the complex and multicultural world we live in.” But it shouldn't be down to Hamilton alone to bring about change like this. One also has to wonder if Hamilton was either not on the grid or not had not been as successful in the sport as he has been, whether or not Formula 1 would actually be doing anything to help fight racism right now.
Photo Credit: Mercedes Media Database
The drive for change hasn't been helped by the dismissal of the issue by other icons of the sport such as Mario Andretti and Sir Jackie Stewart. The issues being discussed and being addressed are not pleasant ones and bringing them up on a regular basis can be uncomfortable for some but that's all the more reason to tackle it head on and not ignore it as if there's nothing to address. It is incredibly frustrating that racism is alive and kicking in the 21st Century but ignoring it won't make it go away. Ideally, the peaceful protests that take place at the beginning of every Grand Prix alongside the 'End Racism' video that Formula 1 created wouldn't have to be done at all but that's not the world we live in. And it's only right that it continues to happen until meaningful change is brought about.
Like the NBA players, Formula 1 doesn't want to stop what it's doing, it doesn't want to have to protest - but it has been made necessary to do so by society. We all watch Formula 1 because we love to see the racing. We love the drivers, the atmosphere, everything. Every single thing each driver does or does not do is examined under a microscope and jettisoned into the public realm to be be scrutinised even further. So surely, when meaningful change has taken place and when racism has been defeated once and for all, surely you - the person reading this right now - want to know that the sport and drivers you love and support did their part to bring about real change and helped make the world a better place.
If you have a problem with this issue being brought up in Formula 1, don't chastise the drivers for making a stand. Go and do your research on why they are protesting in the first place and what can be done to help fight racism - both in Formula 1 and out of it. The more people that help, the quicker it will be resolved and the sooner we can get back to enjoying the racing. Nobody would be protesting about this if it wasn't a massive issue. Some will then ask "well where does this end? Do we do this for everything now?" I don't think so. That's not to say that there are other issues that Formulas 1 shouldn't be protesting against but what is being protested against should be chosen carefully. Take the issue of racism for example. As far as I'm concerned, it belongs in the history books and not in the present day. It's vile and unnecessary. But until it has been addressed in a proper way that brings about real permanent change, I don't see why Formula 1 shouldn't play its part in helping to vanquish it and that moving forwards, Formula 1 should look at more ways to aid this cause more effectively.
Formula One is the pinnacle of motorsport with millions of people watching around the world. It's sewn into the fabric of every fans life and it brings people together from a plethora of different backgrounds. Hell, it's the reason most of us are here reading this article on Drive Tribe in the first place. So support Hamilton and Formula 1 in bringing about change and fighting racism. It's the right thing to do.
I have done another piece in a similar vein which focuses on Formula 2 and Formula 3 and how they too can help with ending racism. Check it out here:
What do you think? Let me know in the comments below.