Lewis Hamilton demands more support of F1, drivers in racism fight

Lewis Hamilton racism
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BUDAPEST, Hungary — Lewis Hamilton demanded more support from Formula One’s governing body and urged other drivers to make more of an effort in the fight against racism.

Some drivers took a knee and others again did not in disorganized scenes before Sunday’s Hungarian Grand Prix.

As in the previous two races this season, all drivers were supposed to gather before the national anthem to stand while wearing “End Racism” T-shirts. Hamilton and others, such as his Mercedes teammate Valtteri Bottas and Ferrari’s Sebastian Vettel, took a knee while others appeared to be hurriedly arriving late and not in position.

It meant that before the drivers were all gathered together as one, the anthem had started, and Hamilton and those kneeling quickly had to stand up out of respect for the host country.

“There definitely is not enough support for it. From a driver’s point of view, well, many people seem to be of the opinion they’ve done (taken a knee) once and (are) not going to do it again. I don’t know their reasons for that opinion,” Hamilton said after winning the race. “All I could say is we’re not doing nearly enough. I think ultimately it’s still individuals thinking it’s not important.”

Hamilton also posted a statement on social media about the disorganized effort at Hungary and wrote it “massively lacked effort.”

Hamilton is a six-time series champion and the only Black driver in F1. He has been an active voice on social this year, joining a Black Lives Matter march in London and forming a panel to build diversity in Formula One. His Mercedes team decided to compete in an all-black car this season – instead of the usual silver – as a statement against racism.

Hamilton has said “so-called leaders” in F1 need to do more to address racial strife and called out fellow drivers for being silent before F1 returned for its season opener in Austria two weeks ago.

“I don’t think it’s being taken serious,” the British driver said Sunday after his victory. “I think there are perhaps people who have not grown up around (the issue of racism) and don’t understand it.”

But ultimately Hamilton says it’s down to F1’s governing body, the FIA, and F1 to show more assertive leadership in the way soccer leagues in England and Germany have done – as well as the England and West Indies cricket teams – with all players united in taking a knee against racism before games.

“It’s not good enough, in terms of what you see in other sports. It’s almost like it’s gone off the agenda,” Hamilton said. “It’s lacking leadership and ultimately there needs to be leadership from the top. Currently there is none of that.”

Hamilton pledged to personally contact FIA president Jean Todt this week to seek an improvement in the way the anti-racism message is being coordinated at the very top.

Todt was present at Sunday’s race.

“I will get in touch with Formula One this week, I will speak to Jean because no one else is going to do it,” Hamilton said. “I think we need a leader. Where is Jean in that scenario?”

Hamilton, who has previously called out other teams for not doing enough to send a strong message out against racism, does not think it should be only left to him to keep pushing others.

“It shouldn’t be for me to have to call the teams (and) say `Hey, what are you doing? What’s your plan?”‘ Hamilton said. “That should be announced or discussed from the top down, that should be coming from the higher powers that control (the sport) and pull the strings.”

Jenson Button joins NASCAR Garage 56 at Le Mans with Jimmie Johnson, Rockenfeller

Jenson Button NASCAR Le Mans
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DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. – The NASCAR Garage 56 entry in the 24 Hours of Le Mans will be driven by champions of three major-league series — Jenson Button, Jimmie Johnson and Mike Rockenfeller.

The lineup of the Hendrick Motorsports-prepared Next Gen Camaro was announced Saturday before the Rolex 24 at Daytona.

NASCAR’s Garage 56 project was announced in March 2022 as a joint effort by NASCAR, Hendrick Motorsports, Chevrolet and Goodyear. It marks the return of a NASCAR team to Le Mans for the first time in nearly 50 years with Hendrick fielding a Camaro ZL1 as the “Garage 56” entry in the 100th edition of the sports car classic.

It’s long been expected the car would include Johnson, the seven-time Cup Series champion who is returning to NASCAR’s premier series as a driver-owner in 2023. Rockenfeller, the 2013 DTM champion and 2010 Le Mans overall winner, has attended every NASCAR Garage 56 test since last year while racking up simulator testing hours.

The surprise was Button, the 2009 Formula One champion who has become a popular commentator. Rick Hendrick initially said wanted four-time Cup champion and current Hendrick Motorsports COO Jeff Gordon to drive the car, and Gordon had raced a sports car at Indianapolis last year to test his race shape.

GARAGE 56 ANSWERS, ANALYSISMore on the NASCAR-Hendrick entry for the 24 Hours of Le Mans

“Since the beginning of the Garage 56 project, it has been our goal to partner with the top racers in the world to represent us in Le Mans,” NASCAR chairman and CEO Jim France said in a release. “The lineup of Jimmie, ‘Rocky’ and Jenson is everything we could have dreamed of – three elite drivers who have won at the highest levels of motorsports worldwide. As we celebrate the 75th anniversary of NASCAR, we are honored to have these world-class champions help bring the sights and sounds of a NASCAR race car to fans in Le Mans, and across the world.”

Button had one of the most prolific careers in F1 history finishing with 15 wins and 50 podiums on top of his 2009 World Championship and is widely considered one of the top British drivers of all time.

“As a lifelong racing fan, I have always dreamed of racing certain cars, with and against certain drivers and competing in certain events,” Button said in a release. “In June, a number of those dreams will come true in one event when I get to bring NASCAR to the world stage alongside my pals Jimmie and ‘Rocky’ for the 100th anniversary of the most prestigious race in the world. I’m really looking forward to sharing this journey with NASCAR, Hendrick Motorsports, Chevrolet and Goodyear, and current and future NASCAR fans from around the world.”

Johnson will make his 24 Hours of Le Mans debut a year after starting his first Indy 500. He has 83 victories in the Cup Series, where he will return for the Daytona 500 next month with his Legacy Motor Club team.

He also has been involved with testing the Garage 56 Camaro.

“I’m super thrilled – it’s been at the top of my bucket list to compete in the 24 Hours of Le Mans someday,” Johnson said. “To have this opportunity come – and to partner with everybody and this driver lineup – is truly an incredible opportunity and one that I am thankful to be a part of.”

Rockenfeller teamed with Johnson on the No. 48 Ally Cadillac in the Rolex 24 at Daytona in 2021-22. The German driver has been the lead test driver for Garage 56 and has driven during every on-track test.

“It has been a great journey so far with the whole team and project,” Rockenfeller said. “To be involved as a driver from day one until now was already a great honor, and to now have Jimmie and Jenson alongside me as teammates in Le Mans is unbelievable.”

The car will continue testing with all three drivers next week at the Daytona International Speedway road course. Rolex 24 and four-time IMSA champion Jordan Taylor, who drives for Corvette Racing, will be the team’s backup driver and coach. Taylor also won the GTE Pro class in 2015 at Le Mans, where he has four podium finishes.

The project also is being supported by IMSA GTP team Action Express, whose general manager is former NASCAR executive and Daytona 500-winning crew chief Gary Nelson. Action Express built the first test car for the Garage 56 but since has handed off the project to Hendrick, where it’s being over seen by vice president of competition Chad Knaus (the crew chief for Johnson’s seven championships).

“Action Express got it going and built the mule car, and then Hendrick joined the program, took it from where we had it, and they’re doing a major percentage of the work,” Nelson told NBC Sports. “We just did a test a couple months ago on a wet track. We’ve done a couple of other tests as they were ramping their program up. Now their car is good, tested and running. We’re still involved and here to help. The Hendrick guys have taken the reins, and Rick Hendrick and Chad Knaus are a thrill to work with and doing a much better job. It’s more NASCAR than prototype racing.”