Formula One champion Lewis Hamilton
Mark Sutton/Pool via AP

Lewis Hamilton on F1’s diversity gap: ‘The sport needs to do more’

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SPIELBERG, Austria — Formula One champion Lewis Hamilton feels it’s his responsibility as a global star to keep pushing for more diversity in his profession and beyond.

Hamilton has spoken widely about racism in recent weeks following the killing of George Floyd — a handcuffed and unarmed Black man — by a police officer in Minneapolis in May. Hamilton attended a Black Lives Matter march in London and is setting up a commission to increase diversity in motorsport.

“I’ve got a platform, and I think it would be irresponsible of me not to utilize that to help educate people, to help educate myself and really push for accountability,” Hamilton said Thursday in a video released by his team. “Within all the brands I work with, within the industry I work with.”

PROTESTING FOR CHANGE: Hamilton joins BLM march

Hamilton’s Mercedes team will be competing in an all-black car – instead of the usual silver – as a statement against racism when the season starts on Sunday in Austria.

“Because we are the world champions, we are the best team and we need to shine our light as best as possible to encourage the other teams to want to do the same,” Hamilton said. “The sport needs to do more, (governing body) FIA need to do more. We all need to do more.”

F1 drivers are discussing whether to take the knee together on the grid before Sunday’s race in support of the Black Lives Matter movement, as soccer players have been doing.

After Floyd’s death, Hamilton spoke of his “anger, sadness and disbelief.”

Wounds from the racism he has endured resurfaced.

“When this all kicked off it really struck a nerve and a chord, brought a lot of emotion up from my personal experiences,” he said. “I experienced a lot of racism growing up, both at school and in my local area. Then on the race (driving) scene particularly being that my Dad and I were the only people of color there.”

Formula One champion Lewis Hamilton
Mercedes driver Lewis Hamilton speaks during a news conference Thursday at the Red Bull Ring racetrack in Spielberg, Austria (Mark Sutton/Pool via AP).

Things were not better elsewhere in Europe.

“When I got to Italy, when I got to Belgium – which was one of my first European races – I experienced the same thing. When I was in France (as well),” Hamilton said. “That was definitely a very, very difficult thing. … You don’t understand when you’re young why things are thrown at you, why things have been shouted at you.”

Hamilton previously criticized F1 for staying silent on racism, prompting a flurry of support on Twitter from fellow drivers such as Charles Leclerc and Daniel Ricciardo.

“People perceived that I was targeting drivers, I really wasn’t. It was targeted at the whole industry,” Hamilton said. “People being silent is something I’ve experienced for such a long time, and now is not the time to be silent. This is a time to help spread the message. We need as many voices as we can to push for change.”

Hamilton hopes his commission finds the root cause of why he’s still the only Black F1 driver.

“It is an expensive sport and I think that’s definitely an underlying factor. The truth is that the opportunity is not the same, not only from the drivers point of view but also the engineers,” he said. “I’ve been working with Mercedes since I was 13. I’ve also been in Formula One for 14 years and I’ve hardly seen any change. That upsets me.”

Sergio Perez still has coronavirus; will miss second consecutive F1 race

F1 Sergio Perez out
Laurent Charniaux/Pool via Getty Images
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SILVERSTONE, England — Sergio Perez will be out for a second F1 race at Silverstone this week after again testing positive for the coronavirus.

The Mexican driver had hoped to return to Formula One after spending seven days in quarantine, but his Racing Point team said this morning he had tested positive.

“He is physically well and recovering,” the team said. “The whole team wishes Sergio and his family well and we look forward to his return.”

That means German veteran Nico Hulkenberg again fills in for Sunday’s 70th Anniversary Grand Prix after having also replaced Sergio Perez when he was out for the F1 British Grand Prix at the same venue last week. Hulkenberg did not start that race because of an engine problem.

There are two consecutive weekends of racing at Silverstone as Formula One tries to pack in races following the pandemic-delayed start to the season.

Perez became the first Formula One driver to test positive for coronavirus, and it had been unclear whether he would be available to drive after the period of quarantine was extended to 10 days.

Racing Point also was in the news Friday after being hit with a 15-point penalty in the Formula One constructors’ championship and fined 400,000 euros ($470,000) Friday for using brake ducts based on those from last year’s Mercedes cars.

The stewards ruled that Mercedes was the “principal designer” of the parts, and that Racing Point made only minor changes to computer design data it received from Mercedes.

Rival team Renault filed protests about the legality of the brake ducts, which were added to the “listed parts” under F1 rules for 2020. That means teams must design their own. Racing Point argued it was merely using information about the Mercedes parts to inform its own design.

Racing Point uses customer engines from Mercedes and has admitted basing its 2020 car design on photographs of last year’s Mercedes car. The similarities led to the Racing Point being nicknamed the “pink Mercedes” when it was first seen in testing ahead of the season.

Racing Point can appeal the ruling. The points deduction drops the team from fifth to sixth in the standings, below Renault. The ruling doesn’t affect the points totals for Racing Point’s drivers.