Earlier this year, Lewis Hamilton gave an interview to Sky F1 where he admitted he felt like a “lone ranger” as his motorsport career developed. His push for diversity in Formula One is not about finding the next black driver, he said, but about making the sport more inclusive in general.
Speaking to Mike Wedderburn the seven times champion claimed change was beginning to happen but his efforts to bring this about had been a “difficult, narrow and very lonely path to walk”, but he found since 2021 the people running the sport are more empathetic and “more open-minded”.
Hamilton’s diversity campaign
Hamilton said: “When we (Hamilton and his father) got to F1, we thought we had broken the mould and thought that would change things.
“But that wasn’t enough and that is why I started the Hamilton Commission because I knew no one else cared to do the work.”
Lewis claimed the higher he climbed in motorsport “the less diverse it is” and his goal is “to shift that, and that is part of my mission. For a long time I was winning races and thinking something was missing. I feel great that I am living my purpose and starting to see that change.”
In 2019, the 38-year-old started the Hamilton Commission after noticing the lack of diversity at the end-of-season photo that year. Yet despite being pictured giving the ‘black power’ salute masked up on a Black Lives Matter march in London, Hamilton maintains his mission is bigger than one highlighting racial prejudice.
“A voice for all” under represented
“I feel that I am a representative for all those who feel they don’t have a voice. There are many people who feel they don’t have a voice and look at the sport and feel it isn’t for them.”
Given the majority of Formula One employees live in England, a quick wander around the paddock at any Grand Prix reveals a racial diversity similar to the socio demographic of the United Kingdom. Of course the skin colour is predominantly white, but then that reflects 85% of the population currently living in England.
What is striking is the male to female ratio of people working within F1 which is nowhere near 50/50, but is much more equal than it might have been two decades ago.
Where that ratio is completely out of kilter is behind the steering wheel of a Formula One car. The sport has a black driver, one with Thai heritage and two drivers currently from the continent of Asia.
The biggest F1 inequality
Africa has been under represented over the years in F1, though Jodi Schecter raced under his South African banner and won the 1979 drivers’ title.
Whilst racial diversity amongst the drivers has and is evident today, the lack of a female driver in the sport is striking. This is surely the biggest diversity crime Formula One must address.
Hamilton went on to claim, “It should be open to anybody, no matter what your race, or what your sex. In 10 years’ time, we are going to see a much different sport because I’ll make sure of it.”
However, there will be no female driver in Formula One for probably at least five years given the current pipeline in the Junior racing Formula. And it is here where Hamilton’s efforts appear to be lacking.
F1 applicant was to field a woman
Earlier this week the FIA announced the approval of the Andretti application to become the 11th racing team on the F1 grid. Yet two days earlier one of the other applicants revealed they had been rejected but revealed their plans to field a female driver had they been given the green light.
David Dicker, CEO of Rodin cars, claimed had his bid to join F1 been successful he would have fielded a female driver. The FIA application process demanded potential entrants demonstrate their diversity programme and Rodin’s effort was clearly striking in regards of this.
Dicker cited Jamie Chadwick as his future F1 female driver, a woman who dominated the W series for three seasons and is now driving for Andretti in the feeder IndyNXT series for the full IndyCar championship.
Chadwick is the Williams team development driver but is unlikely to feature as one of their mandated young drivers putting in an FP1 session for the team this year.
Dicker compares Lawson to Chadwick
Since the release of the Rodin statement, Dicker has been questioned over whether he really intended to pout a female in an F1 car and his reposes is clear:
“There has been a massive amount of talk in the press quite recently about a woman in F1. We were prepared to put one in and I honestly believe that Jamie would be okay in F1. I think she’d do well,” he told the Mirror.
Dicker is clearly serious and he reveals how it was he who supported the early career of the budding Red Bull star Liam Lawson but it requires an F1 team to take things all the way for a driver with such talent.
”Look, I’ve supported Liam Lawson for five years – I’ve put more money into his career than Red Bull has – we tested him here and we tested Jamie in the same cars. Jamie can do the job, so I’d definitely be happy to put her in the car.
“It’s not like it was tokenism – I think that, especially in the F1 car where you’ve got power steering and a few other things, I think she might surprise a few people.”
F2/3 needs to change
Clearly as the world of athletics demonstrates there will always be a differential between men and women when it comes to strength and even potentially endurance.
And whilst Formula One cars are challenging to drive, the feeder series F2/F3 make it even more difficult for a woman to break through in the sport.
Simply put, the lack of power steering in Junior Formula means the challenge is unfair for women, yet Dickens is ready to press ahead with Chadwick anyway.
The Aussie is frustrated over all the talk about women in F1 and calls out Lewis Hamilton and others to put up or shut up.
Lewis Hamilton called to action
“If any of these teams, or even Lewis Hamilton, who are all talking about, ‘We’ve got to get women into F1, do this and do that’, why don’t you step up?” Questions Dickens.
In terms of the cost, “It’s only two million Euros, for god’s sake. I’m not joking, I’m serious,” Dickens reveals.
“Andretti would be a perfect candidate given she’s driving for him at the moment.”If someone comes to me, I’ll put her into one of my F2 cars the season after next. I’m blocked out for the season coming up, but I’ll put her in an F2 car after that, without a doubt, if they want to fund it.”
Yet despite all the chatter about diversity and the pretty pictures and slogans, Dickens accepts it will probably come down to him to deliver Chadwick into F2 of its going to happen at all.
Dicker’s lack of faith in F1
When asked if he thought any of the F1 teams would accept his challenge to put Chadwick into F2/3 he replied “NO!”
“I might even do it myself and just see how it goes. I still believe she’s got a lot of talent and, in the right environment, she could do well. It’s not a stunt – I think she’s got the ability.”
Hamilton’s diversity commission and Mission 44 may well be laying the groundwork for more equal opportunities behind the scenes.Yet they could really up their public profile by doing something meaningful today were they to answer Dickens challenge and fund Jamie Chadwick to compete for a year with the male junior drivers until she attracts her own sponsorship going forward.
Lewis Hamilton claimed ahead of this weekend’s racing, his last appearance in Qatar was “nerve racking” as he wore a helmet supporting LGBTQ+ rights.“As a sport we have to continue to work on our inclusivity. Diversity continues to be an issue,” he said.
MORE F1 NEWS: First F1 Team Boss on record rejecting FIA approval of Andretti
As the Formula One teams arrive in Qatar the big topic on everyone’s lips will be the FIA’s approval of an 11th team to join the F1 grid. Andretti Motorsport has been asking to join the sport since 2021 so the FIA was duty bound to open an application route which the American outfit have now satisfied.
With the exception of McLaren’s Zak Brown and Alpine, the other eight teams have made their view clear that…READ MORE ON THIS STORY