Reigning world champion Lewis Hamilton wants to work with Formula One to improve diversity in motor racing.
Hamilton, F1’s first and only black driver, has been an outspoken critic on that topic. Ahead of last year’s opening race, the Australian Grand Prix, he posted an Instagram picture with the message: “There’s barely any diversity in F1. Still nothing’s changed in 11 years I’ve been here. Kids, people, there’s so many jobs in this sport of which anybody, no matter your ethnicity or background, can make it and fit in.”
Five-time world champion Hamilton is well on his way to becoming F1’s most successful driver, as he is closing in on some of the records set by Michael Schumacher, but he says he wants to be remembered for shaping the sport in a different way too.
“In terms of my legacy, it’s difficult to say, really,” Hamilton said ahead of this weekend’s Canadian Grand Prix. “There are so many elements that are to be worked on. Ultimately I want to somehow help pave the way for some younger drivers to come through from a similar background to myself, for example.
“That means getting involved in the go-karting, from the early phases of motor racing. It’s so expensive now to race go-karts. When we started, I think my Dad told me he spent £20,000 in the first year, which was a huge amount of money from where we came from — a council estate in the UK. But for today, for a professional season of karting, it’s in the hundreds of thousands, £200,000 or £300,000 to be a professional. That’s a lot of money to spend in a year.
“I want to be a part of somehow shifting that. Also help shift a little bit the diversity because at the moment there is the most minimal diversity within this sport, and I really want to be part of shapeshifting that, with Formula One and the FIA. I don’t know why there’s not enough university engineers, mechanics, even in the media, coming through from more diverse backgrounds.
“I don’t know why that’s always been the way it is today. I see a real opportunity to play a role in shapeshifting that. Ultimately in 20 years’ time, if I ever hear someone whispering, [I hope] they would say I was a part in shifting that.”
The diversity issue is not the only thing Hamilton feels motor racing needs to work on. The championship leader spoke once again about what F1 needs to achieve with its next regulation change, currently slated for 2021.
“If you look over the last 12 years and beyond, they always shift and change the regulations for the car and try and improve costs, try to improve overtaking, and I think in general it’s been . . . the decisions have not been great all those years.
“Liberty [Media, F1 owners] have taken over, and you still have the same issue and the separation between the wealthier teams and others. I think there’s more to it than changing the regs of the cars.
“Also, the entertainment aspect, same format for four days, 21 times a year, the entertainment aspect probably has to shift. You have Monaco, maybe have two races there? I don’t have the answers, but I think that element has to be looked into. The fans are the reasons we do what we do, but there are races with not big attendances, promotion not the best at some places, people comment it’s boring — Ferrari win for a period of time, McLaren, Red Bull, Mercedes.
“How you stop that is definitely part of the regs, but I think on a global scale there needs to be changes outside of the regulations. I think Ross [Brawn, F1 motorsport boss] is looking at that for 2021.”
Hamilton’s blueprint for a perfect F1 has not changed over the past few years, as he reiterated what he wanted to see going forward.
“I’d go back to V12 engines, manual gearbox, take away big run-off areas, should not have steering assists, or you’ve got to have it low. I like having it low, so it’s harder for me. You should be so physically exhausted after the race, like a marathon, and sometimes I could do two or three races in a row, and Formula 1 should not be like that. Also, it’s a man’s sport. A lot of youngsters come in, and it’s easy for them to come into it. I think it should be the most physically challenging. We can handle it. There’s a bunch of different things [that need changing].”