Author: anwr Date: July 27, 2020 19:21 Comments: 0 Viewed:1595
The world might be wrapped up in a pandemic thanks to corona virus but arguably there is an even bigger issue that's come to the forefront of many minds.
That, for anyone that is in doubt, is racism. Here we look at whether F1 has a race problem?

What's the accusation?

The main voice suggesting there is an issue with equality in Formula One is Lewis Hamilton's. He just so happens to be on the brink of becoming the most successful driver of all time so it's hard to ignore what he says.

The Brit initially whipped up a storm on social media with a post that called out his fellow drivers for their failure to use their platform to speak out in the wake of George Floyd's murder in America and referenced F1 as 'white dominated'. It didn't stop there though.

Interviews followed where the Mercedes number one driver continued his, shall we say, verbal challenge to the other drivers when suggesting that being silent was part of the problem with racism running so deep into society.

Has it achieved anything?

Has Hamilton's willingness to open up achieved anything? Yes. Has it achieved enough? He'd quickly tell you it hasn’t. Not by a long stretch. The good news is that at least some of the drivers have given interviews where they’ve admitted being oblivious and blind to the problem. 

That’s not to say they’re in agreement with any racist behavior but is perhaps more a reflection of a white privilege. Even so, acknowledging such a thing publicly can go a long way given their position as role models.

After all, a lot of the issue’s society has with prejudices stem from a lack of education. On that point, the pre-race ‘protest' that sees drivers take the knee and/or don a black lives matter shirt keeps the problem current. That means people still talk about it. Another thing that is important. Again though, it hasn’t been plain sailing. 

The first race – at the Red Bull Ring in Austria – also saw the first demonstration against racism but not all drivers took the knee and Hamilton told the media that several involved had to be encouraged to take part at all. Fast forward to race week two and there was more of the same. Once again, Hamilton was sharing his dismay that many drivers were of the opinion “they’ve done it and they’re not doing it again" whilst also criticising the organisation and leadership.

Is there a formal anti-racism campaign?

The short answer is yes. The sport actually launched one back in 2008 called ‘Everyrace', which coincidentally came about after a younger Hamilton was racially abused during testing. Now though with the issue thrust back in the public eye a new campaign – ‘We race as one' – has been launched. 

You might notice a trend with this article because that campaign hasn’t hit all the right notes either. Not with Hamilton at least. He’s branded it rushed, muddled and lacking progress. The wider view is that the campaign will revert to being just a slogan. 

So, does Hamilton have a point on inequality in F1?

First up, let’s address the fact that Hamilton is the only black man on the grid. That in itself doesn’t mean F1 has a race problem because 20 drivers is a tiny proportion of the global population. What is a concern is the fact that six of those 20 failed to kneel in Austria?

Yes, they have offered up reasons why they didn’t but failing to do so suggests a lack of togetherness in the sport and means the viewer picks up a diluted message.

When NFL odds player Colin Kaepernick decided to take a stand that ended up bringing awareness to the cause but costed the quarterback any chance of finding a new team (he was released in 2017). Perhaps F1 drivers are afraid of the same thing.

That’s on the visual front but it’s perhaps some of the spoken words that have caused warning flags to flutter. The first to cause a tsunami of eye rolls was Bernie Ecclestone – the former top man of F1. He gave an almost unbelievable account on his view on racism claiming that the anti-racism movement was “fashionable” and that “black people are more racist than white people".

In addition to Ecclestone, former big names of F1 Sir Jackie Stewart and Mario Andretti have also been critical of Hamilton. Stewart claimed there is “no resistance to change" with Andretti labelling Hamilton a “militant" pushing something that is “pretentious”. The three of them haven’t covered themselves in glory in the manner they have spoken and whilst they’re not directly involved in the sport now their views certainly cast an ugly shadow that goes a long way to validating Hamilton’s point of people being poor educated on the subject.

A closing thought

Racism is a deep topic and we're not a political blog so, to end let’s keep it simple. The fact is if any black person feels like Hamilton does then, ultimately, the answer has to be that more can be done. For that reason, F1 cannot stop trying to move forwards: the only race that matters are the ones happening in the tracks.