Lewis Hamilton: Pandemic has made me revalue my time and focus on fighting inequality

Lizzie Edmonds
·3-min read
<p>Hamilton at the Hungarian Grand Prix</p> (REUTERS)

Hamilton at the Hungarian Grand Prix

(REUTERS)

Lewis Hamilton has said the pandemic has given him space to “revalue my time” and focus on fighting against racial inequality.

The 35-year-old Formula One Champion - who this week tested positive for coronavirus - said he has realised his platform should be used to “try and gain traction and push for change.”

The sportsman - who this year beat the all–time world record of 91 career wins, previously held by Michael Schumacher - said the deaths of George Floyd in May and Breonna Taylor in March had made him reevaluate his position.

<p>Lewis Hamilton praised Marcus Rashford’s “incredible” child food poverty campaign</p>PA

Lewis Hamilton praised Marcus Rashford’s “incredible” child food poverty campaign

PA

He told ES Magazine at first some were shocked at his activism, but he wanted to act for his young family members to ensure they didn’t experience the racism he had throughout his career.

“At first there was a knee-jerk, shocked reaction,” he said. “But for so long some people have been happy and comfortable with how things are, when it doesn’t really affect them. I have a responsibility as a person of colour. I’ve got a niece and nephew who are growing up biracial and I don’t want them to experience what I experienced. I have this voice, this platform, and it’s not for personal use — it’s for trying to gain traction and push for change.”

In June, Hamilton - who was born to a black father and a white mother in Stevenage, Hertfordshire - posted an image of a single raised fist to his 21 million followers.

“I am completely overcome with rage at the sight of such blatant disregard for the lives of our people,” he wrote.

A month later, when the F1 season began in Austria, he took a knee, a widely acknowledged symbol of support to the BAME community, at the starting grid.

He has often worn Black Lives Matter T-shirts or other political items in his racing appearances since.

Hamilton added: “At some points, [this year] felt horrible. But it gave me the chance to revalue my time.” The star said he now has a new focus. “I spend a lot of [time] now on Zoom calls, trying to understand scenarios around the world. I was just on a call being informed about policing systems in America. There’s a lot to keep on top of, but I’m enjoying it.”

<p>Lewis Hamilton in a Black Lives Matter tshirt</p>PA

Lewis Hamilton in a Black Lives Matter tshirt

PA

He said the death of Floyd brought up painful memories of racism he had suffered. “Stuff I remember having to brush off, that no one even acknowledged,” he said. “The experiences and scars you get… they’re a part of you. And there are so many injustices people are experiencing that are far worse than those I’ve experienced. It made me realise I have to bring awareness to them.”

The driver also spoke in praise of fellow sportsman Marcus Rashford’s child food poverty campaign - saying his work had been “incredible.”

Speaking about the Manchester United star’s lobbying of the government to provide meals for families hit by the pandemic, he said: “I’ve been reading about what he’s done, and to be doing it so young is just incredible. I’m excited to see what he does next because the impact he’s already had is just… man.”

The full interview is in ES Magazine, out on Thursday.