Lewis Hamilton pushes back against ‘old voices’ and racism in Formula One

Lewis Hamilton F1 racism
Dan Mullan - Formula 1/Formula 1 via Getty Images
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SILVERSTONE, England — Lewis Hamilton said Thursday that Formula One should ignore “old voices” and reject racism as it focuses on becoming more inclusive, even as reigning world champion Max Verstappen said his “father-in-law” should not be banned from the F1 paddock.

Hamilton, the seven-time F1 champion and only Black driver, was reacting to comments made last year by three-time F1 champion Nelson Piquet referring to Hamilton by a racial term. The word in question was brought to attention this week, prompting Hamilton to respond on social media. Piquet is the father of Verstappen’s girlfriend, Kelly Piquet.

Former longtime F1 boss Bernie Ecclestone defended Piquet on Thursday, said he was surprised Hamilton hadn’t “brushed it aside” and expressed support for Russian President Vladimir Putin’s invasion of Ukraine.

“I don’t know why we are continuing to give these older voices a platform because they’re speaking upon our sport and we’re looking to go somewhere completely different. And it’s not representative, I think, of who we are as a sport now and where we’re planning to go,” Hamilton said, without mentioning either Piquet or Ecclestone by name.

“These old voices, whether subconsciously or consciously, do not agree that people like me, for example, should be in a sport like this,” Hamilton said. “Do not agree women should be here. Discrimination is not something we should be projecting or promoting.”

In an apparent response to Ecclestone’s comments, Hamilton added: “No one should have to brush off racism, and it shouldn’t be for me to brush it off.”

Verstappen said that Piquet had been wrong to use a word he described as “very, very offensive” but doesn’t consider him to be racist. He added Piquet’s lifetime paddock access given to former F1 champions should not be revoked.

“Let it be a lesson for the future not to use that word because it’s very, very offensive, and especially nowadays, you know, it gets more and more traction,” he said. “But I spend a lot of time with Nelson, I think, more than the average person in general. And he’s definitely not a racist, and he’s actually a really nice and relaxed guy.

“I’m pretty sure that, also the statement he released, you can see the word in two ways, but I think it’s still better not to use it.”

Verstappen said he had not confronted Piquet. “It’s not up to me to talk to my father-in-law like I think any of you do. We’re not going to call and say, `Hey, man, that’s not correct.’ I think he knows that himself.”

Hamilton did not immediately respond to Verstappen’s remarks.

Hamilton said he wanted F1 to do more to widen the diversity and inclusivity of the sport. Hamilton is working with his Mercedes team to fund projects to promote more female participation in auto racing and engineering scholarships for Black students with a focus on auto racing. They announced the first grants Thursday.

Piquet was suspended Thursday from his honorary membership of the British Racing Drivers’ Club, which owns and runs the Silverstone track used for this week’s Grand Prix.

The BRDC said Piquet’s use of “racially offensive language to describe a fellow BRDC member is unacceptable and represents conduct that is wholly inappropriate for an Honorary Member of the BRDC, notwithstanding his subsequent apology.” The BRDC added that its board was expected to cancel Piquet’s membership at a forthcoming meeting.

Piquet on Wednesday apologized to Hamilton but said the term, while “ill thought out”, was not meant to be offensive.

Piquet used the term three times while discussing a crash between Hamilton and Verstappen during last year’s British Grand Prix.

Even without Piquet’s comments, this week’s return to Silverstone would have had a heightened focus on the often-bitter rivalry between Hamilton and Verstappen last year. Verstappen crashed into the wall and was taken to a hospital for observations, while Hamilton went on to win despite a penalty.

Hamilton faced racist abuse on social media following the race; Verstappen complained it was classless for Hamilton to celebrate a win while Verstappen was being evaluated at the hospital.

There has been widespread condemnation of Piquet’s remarks from F1 management, governing body the FIA and from most of the drivers.

Zhou Guanyu of Alfa Romeo said Thursday that he experienced “quite a lot of negativity, racist comments, which never should happen” on social media around the time he signed his contract to become the first driver from China in F1.

“Lewis, in a way, is trying to help the world going forward, and it’s not just for us, it’s for the younger generation, to set a better example for them,” Zhou added.

Verstappen’s Red Bull team issued a statement Tuesday saying “the team do not condone any form of racism.” It made no mention of Piquet and focused on the Red Bull decision to fire Formula Two driver Juri Vips from a test and reserve driver role for using a racial slur during an online gaming stream. Vips has kept his seat with his F2 team Hitech.

Ecclestone, who has been criticized before by Hamilton for comments on racism and diversity in F1, said Piquet’s closeness with Verstappen might explain his comments and that Piquet would “never go out of his way to say anything bad”.

“Knowing Nelson as I know him, as his daughter is the girlfriend of Max Verstappen, probably after seeing the accident … he probably exploded then and sort of carried that forward,” said Ecclestone in comments on British TV breakfast show “Good Morning Britain.”

Ecclestone, who controlled F1 for decades before stepping aside in 2017, also defended Vladimir Putin over the invasion of Ukraine. The 91-year-old said he would “take a bullet” for the Russian president.

“The comments made by Bernie Ecclestone are his personal views and are in very stark contrast to (the) position of the modern values of our sport,” F1 said in a statement.

Hamilton wondered why Ecclestone was even put on television: “Someone that ultimately believes in the war, the displacement of millions of people and the killing of thousands of people? That’s beyond me, and I can’t believe that’s what I heard today.”

World of Outlaws release 2023 Sprint Car Series schedule

2023 Outlaws Sprint schedule
World of Outlaws
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The 2023 World of Outlaws Sprint Car Series schedule features 87 races, almost identical to the last year’s number, to be contested at 36 venues across 19 states. With cancelations for mostly weather, they closed out this year’s calendar on November 5 with 69 events in the books. Carson Macedo won a series high 11 races.

In 2022, David Gravel chased Brad Sweet into the three-race finale on the Dirt Track at Charlotte Motor Speedway in one of the most hotly contested championships in Outlaws history. Sweet emerged victorious for the fourth straight year.

For the 19th consecutive season, the Outlaws Sprints will begin their season at Volusia Speedway Park for the DIRTcar Nationals from Feb. 9-11 and will return March 5-6 for another two-day show before hitting the road with a three-track swing into Pennsylvania to take on the Posse.

MORE: 2023 World of Outlaws Late Model Schedule

“Every year we continue to build the best schedule we can for drivers and fans across the country,” said World of Outlaws CEO Brian Carter is a series release. “I’m excited for the journey we’ve put together, which includes the biggest races in Sprint Car racing, our new Spring Swing through Pennsylvania, the thrill of combining the World of Outlaws and ‘Bike Week’ and so much more.”

Some tracks returning from hiatus and one brand new course include 81 Speedway in Park City, Kans. in April and again in October, Tri-City Speedway in Pontoon City, Ill. in April, Ogilvie (Minn.) Raceway in June and BAPS Motor Speedway in York Haven, Penn.

BAPS hosts its first race in more than 30 years when the track was known as Susquehanna Speedway. This midweek show will give the local Pennsylvania Posse 14 attempts to beat the traveling Outlaws.

Ogilvie Speedway is completely new to the series and makes it the 224th different venue they will have challenged.

MORE: Brad Sweet protects his place in history

Notably missing from the calendar are Vado (N.M.) Speedway Park, Cotton Bowl Speedway in Paige, Texas, Bakersfield (Calif.) Speedway and the Bristol Motor Speedway Dirt Track.

In addition to the new spring Pennsylvania Swing, the second date at Volusia Speedway will coincide with Daytona Beach’s Bike Week and bring new eyes to the sport.

Knoxville Raceway adds another multi-night show to the calendar in April, giving this track eight sanctioned events in 2023.

And of course, there are plenty of mainstays and high dollar events, such as the Memorial Day Spectacular at Lawrenceburg (Ind.) Speedway, the 35th running of the Brad Doty Classic in July and the Labor Day Spectacular at Gray’s Harbor in Elma, Wash.

Several big paydays are on the line in 2023 including the 40th annual Kings Royal at Eldora Speedway in Rossburg, Ohio paying $175,000 to the winner, the Huset’s High Bank Nationals’ $250,000-to-win finale and the grandaddy of them all, the 62nd Knoxville Nationals with a total purse exceeding $1 million.

2023 Outlaws Sprint Schedule

Thursday-Saturday, Feb. 9-11 – Volusia Speedway Park (Barberville, FL)

Sunday-Monday, March 5-6 – Volusia Speedway Park (Barberville, FL)
Friday-Saturday, March 10-11 – Port Royal Speedway (Port Royal, PA)
Friday, March 17 – Williams Grove Speedway (Mechanicsburg, PA)
Saturday, March 18 – Lincoln Speedway (Abbottstown, PA)
Friday, March 24 – Talladega Short Track (Eastaboga, AL)
Saturday, March 25 – Magnolia Motor Speedway (Columbus, MS)
Friday, March 31-Saturday, April 1 – Devil’s Bowl Speedway (Mesquite, TX)

Friday, April 7 – US-36 Raceway (Osborn, MO)
Saturday, April 8 – 81 Speedway (Park City, KS)
Friday-Saturday, April 14-15 – Federated Auto Parts Raceway at I-55 (Pevely, MO)
Friday-Saturday, April 21-22 – Knoxville Raceway (Knoxville, IA)
Friday, April 28 – Tri-City Speedway (Granite City, IL)
Saturday, April 29 – Tri-State Speedway (Haubstadt, IN)

Friday-Saturday, May 5-6 – Eldora Speedway (Rossburg, OH)
Wednesday, May 10 – Lincoln Speedway (Abbottstown, PA)
Friday-Saturday, May 12-13 – Williams Grove Speedway (Mechanicsburg, PA)
Friday, May 19 – Attica Raceway Park (Attica, OH)
Saturday, May 20 – Sharon Speedway (Hartford, OH)
Friday-Saturday, May 26-27 – Atomic Speedway (Chillicothe, OH)
Monday, May 29 – Lawrenceburg Speedway (Lawrenceburg, IN)

Friday, June 2 – River Cities Speedway (Grand Forks, ND)
Saturday, June 3 – Ogilvie Raceway (Ogilvie, MN)
Friday-Saturday, June 9-10 – Knoxville Raceway (Knoxville, IA)
Friday-Saturday, June 16-17 – Beaver Dam Raceway (Beaver Dam, WI)
Wednesday-Saturday, June 21-24 – Huset’s Speedway (Brandon, SD)
Friday, June 30-Saturday, July 1 – Cedar Lake Speedway (New Richmond, WI)

Friday, July 7 – 34 Raceway (West Burlington, IA)
Saturday, July 8 – Wilmot Raceway (Wilmot, WI)
Tuesday, July 11 – Attica Raceway Park (Attica, OH)
Friday-Saturday, July 14-15 – Eldora Speedway (Rossburg, OH)
Wednesday, July 19 – BAPS Motor Speedway (York Haven, PA)
Friday-Saturday, July 21-22 – Williams Grove Speedway (Mechanicsburg, PA)
Saturday-Sunday, July 29-30 – Weedsport Speedway (Weedsport, NY)

Friday-Saturday, Aug. 4-5 – Federated Auto Parts Raceway at I-55 (Pevely, MO)
Wednesday-Saturday, Aug. 9-12 – Knoxville Raceway (Knoxville, IA)
Thursday-Saturday, Aug. 17-19 – Jackson Motorplex (Jackson, MN)
Friday, Aug. 25 – River Cities Speedway (Grand Forks, ND)
Saturday, Aug. 26 – Red River Valley Speedway (West Fargo, ND)
Thursday, Aug. 31-Saturday, September 2 – Skagit Speedway (Alger, WA)

Monday, Sept. 4 – Grays Harbor Raceway (Elma, WA)
Thursday-Saturday, Sept. 7-9 – Silver Dollar Speedway (Chico, CA)
Friday, Sept. 15 – Keller Auto Speedway (Hanford, CA)
Saturday, Sept. 16 – Placerville Speedway (Placerville, CA)
Friday, Sept. 22 – Eldora Speedway (Rossburg, OH)
Saturday, Sept. 23 – Sharon Speedway (Hartford, OH)
Friday-Saturday, Sept. 29-30 – Williams Grove Speedway (Mechanicsburg, PA)

Friday-Saturday, Oct. 6-7 – Port Royal Speedway (Port Royal, PA)
Friday, Oct. 13 – 81 Speedway (Park City, KS)
Saturday, Oct. 14 – Lakeside Speedway (Kansas City, KS)
Friday-Saturday, Oct. 20-21 – TBA

Wednesday-Saturday, Nov. 1-4 – The Dirt Track at Charlotte (Concord, NC)