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SR International: Lewis Hamilton Is WSJ. Magazine’s First-Ever Sport’s Innovator Honoree

SR International: Lewis Hamilton Is WSJ. Magazine’s First-Ever Sport’s Innovator Honoree

lewis-hamilton-wsj-sport-innovator-award-style-rave

What troubles Lewis Hamilton these days are the things about Formula 1 that haven’t changed. Since he first crammed himself into a McLaren cockpit as a baby-faced 22-year-old in 2007, before moving to the Mercedes F1 team in 2013, he has won more races and taken more pole positions than any driver in history. His seventh world title last season tied the all-time great Michael Schumacher. At 36, in one of the highest- performing cars the sport has ever seen, Hamilton has at least a few more seasons to break that record before retirement. Lewis Hamilton Award

Yet during that time, as Hamilton went from prodigy to elder statesman, some 56 other drivers have made their F1 debuts—not one of them Black. Hamilton was the first. And the wait continues for a second.

Here are some things Lewis Hamilton revealed as he is awarded WSJ. Magazine’s Innovator Awards…

Hamilton on diversity in the sport:

lewis-hamilton-wsj-sport-innovator-award-style-rave
Photo: Cass Bird for WSJ. Magazine

“My dad and I would watch people like Tiger [Woods] who kind of broke the mold, and we watched in admiration. The Williams sisters also did the same,” he says. “We’re like, ‘Oh, if we could do something like that, that’s going to help change the industry moving forward.’”

A jarring realization hit him at the end of the 2019 season as he looked at photos of his team celebrating its sixth straight title. “I zoomed in on them, from the F1 Instagram,” he says. “I’ve been here 15 years, 14 years—how has it not changed? I was really sad about it. I was frustrated and sad.” Lewis Hamilton Award

Hamilton on racism he’s experienced:

At one event in Spain in 2008, people showed up in blackface, wearing shirts that read “Hamilton’s Family,” before trying to explain that blackface and offensive T-shirts somehow weren’t racist. “I remember the pain that I felt that day, but I didn’t say anything about it; I didn’t have anyone,” he says. “No one said anything.”

“I saw people continuing in my industry and staying quiet,”

Hamilton on pushing for accountability and change in his contract:

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Photo: Cass Bird for WSJ. Magazine

Not only did Hamilton’s latest contract, signed during the 2021 season, include stipulations for increasing diversity within the team—Hamilton also spoke directly with the team’s sponsors asking them to do the same. “Where are you guys at?” he remembers asking the CEO of the Monster energy drink company, which has backed him since 2013. “How are you guys holding yourself accountable? How can we work together? If one says, ‘No, we’re totally fine; we don’t need to do it,’” Hamilton adds, “I won’t be working with them.”

Mercedes team principal and CEO Toto Wolf on Hamilton:

“We must stop putting people into boxes. Everybody functions differently,” Wolf tells me. “If you’re as successful, who can hold it against you? Seven-time world champion, you hold the records in the most wins and the pole positions, you can show up with a pink suede tracksuit…. If you’re not winning, people will see you as a fool.”

Wolf on whether there would be a push for diversity at F1 without Hamilton:

Photo: Cass Bird for WSJ. Magazine

“Maybe initiatives would have taken place, but certainly not in the dimension that Lewis triggered,” he says. Lewis Hamilton Award

Lewis disagrees:

“I’m pretty sure that nothing would’ve changed,” he says. “I’m 36 years old; I’ve been wondering, Why me? Why am I the only Black driver that’s got through to Formula 1, and not only that—I’m at the front? There’s got to be a bigger reason for me being here.”

Read full article here.

Find all Innovator Awards information here.

Watch…

Photo: Cass Bird for WSJ. Magazine


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