Sky F1’s Rachel Brookes chats with seven-time world champion Lewis Hamilton about his 2021 season so far on and off the track.
In a fascinating exclusive interview, Lewis Hamilton says he now has a “new motivation,” a “real purpose” and a “mission in life” thanks to his push for diversity and inclusion – which he says, made him “stronger than ever”. while extending his record-breaking Formula 1 career.
Hamilton sat down with Rachel Brookes of Sky Sports F1 ahead of the United States GP to discuss a wide range of topics during Black History Month, from her 2021 battle with Max Verstappen to the fight against racism and the need for “action” in F1 and beyond …
“Things haven’t been fixed… we need to fix it”: Hamilton on “triggered conversations” with messages on the grid
Hamilton has been a leading voice in the fight against racism and inequality, constantly advocating for change off track, creating his own commission, while using his platform to spread important messages and shine a light on black talent. Notably this year, Hamilton paid for young black designers to attend the 2021 Met Gala while more recently he revealed that he partnered with winner George the Poet to display messages on his t-shirts on the grid. …
“It was right before the start of the season and I was thinking, we’ve been going through a period, Black Lives Matter, taking a knee, what’s next and how do we continue to spark the conversation?” Hamilton said.
“And so I got this idea – how about working with some promising black designers to create the shirts, then working with a young black British poet and finding something meaningful, and by the end of the year we will have a real story to tell.
“And that’s what it’s about, it’s about a story and starting this conversation.
“Because we move from race to race, and people maybe talk less about Black Lives Matter and inclusiveness. But we have to keep that on the forefront of the tongue because it’s still a conversation that needs to take place.
“Things haven’t been fixed; we have to fix it. It’s all well and good sport is about ending racism, diversity and inclusion, sustainability and all those things, but we have to make sure that we’re really following through on these things. It takes a lot of conversation. I feel like we need to engage our audience on this as well, because we can all continue to learn. “
“I am really proud of the next generation”
Hamilton is not the only driver who has used his voice to push for change, with Sebastian Vettel being one of several drivers who have raised significant issues this season.
“From my experience as a driver, there is definitely the experience of ‘my team won’t want me to say that’ or ‘I can’t be blunt because the team won’t like it’ or “Sponsors Won’t Like I hope breaking some of these invisible rules that exist has shown others that they can do these things.
“I don’t mind being the only one breaking them, and yes it’s great to see Seb really come out on his own. As older riders I hope that will cheer up some of the younger riders.
“I’m talking with Mick [Schumacher], including such a beautiful boy and he says things like, “I don’t know everything, is there a way for you to educate me?” And the same with Lando [Norris]. So I am very proud of the arrival of this new generation, but we can always encourage them to be more invested and more understanding.
“When you’re young, all you think about is winning – you don’t have time for a lot of these other things. Well, you think you don’t, but you actually do. we have to cross. “
Energized by new “engines” and “mission”
Locked in a title battle with a driver 12 years his junior and in search of his first F1 title, Hamilton has a lot more experience than Verstappen to draw upon. But he maintains that what’s been most helpful in his championship run is the off-road work and the desire to highlight messages – like his Breonna Taylor t-shirt last year.
It’s like my new record and I feel like it gives me more longevity because it’s a lot of work that we have to do. I feel like it also gives my life a real purpose. Running is not a goal, it’s something you do.
“This year I didn’t draw inspiration from past experiences, I fed off that energy to do this positive work. I noticed it last year and it was part of it last year. Get on the podium. so I can give that voice to Breonna, it was a great motivation for me.
“So now this is the work that I do in the background, and then I introduce myself and I enjoy this work.
“Does that help me run? I think so. It’s like my new ride and I feel like it gives me more longevity because it’s a lot of work that we have to do . I feel like it gives my life a real purpose as well. Running is not a goal, it’s something you do. “
Hamilton, 36, then develops this “longevity” …
“Of course, I’ve certainly had times… people can’t see but it’s not all beautiful. I’m only human and everything is relative. You have days of ups and downs, I have days. really hard where I don’t want to train, you don’t want to keep pushing, all these different thoughts that people have, I feel them too.
“There were times I was like, I don’t know if I can go on, or maybe there’s something else I want to do. But I don’t think I found my goal until the year last.
“Now I feel like I have a mission in life and it’s not just about winning championships and races it’s cool but being able to actually make an impact to help young people to. to succeed.
“My niece and nephew will be having conversations in school about engineering and maybe wanting to do triple science, and might want to be Métis kids who can be an engineer here or at NASA wherever it is. love it. “
Lewis Hamilton claims Mercedes did everything to win the race, but ultimately couldn’t keep up with the pace of the Red Bulls.
“Mentally, I am stronger than ever”
He says it also makes him a tougher competitor on the track.
“I think mentally I’m stronger than I’ve ever been. And I think that’s been a huge part of it. I think I’ve been mentally strong for a long time anyway, but I think that it solidified me even more. Plus, I’m not distracted by everything that’s going on here, I come in and do what I love to do. I think it’s positive. “
The goal when leaving F1
“What will make me proud is when I leave this paddock, to really see this course of action, see more women here, see more people of color here, see it more reflecting the outside world and see it continue. to progress.
“This is what will make me proud. I have seen this in my team before and I already see it here. One thing I experienced, when we started to come out of the lockdown, we started to return at the factory, I walked in and saw the marketing department, a bigger team than ever, more diverse than ever.
“I was really… really shocked and it was really moving to me because more often than not you’re the only person of color in the room and you always wonder why.”
The “roller coaster” of the 2021 season
Hamilton also discussed his 2021 title battle against Verstappen, which he is now 12 points behind with five races to go. Hamilton admitted it hasn’t always been “perfect” but continues to learn and is proud of his team.
“I expected it to be a roller coaster. It was amazing, it was the hardest year on so many levels, but there were so many positives and I really, really enjoyed it. that, even on difficult days.
“It could definitely be better in the sense that we lost points, we weren’t always perfect, but you live and you learn and I feel like things go the way they do for a reason. and we’ve learned a lot, we’ve come together after all these experiences that we’ve had, gained or lost, and I love the place I’m in with my team.
“Especially the things we do off piste together, I have always been proud of my team and what we have accomplished together. [on the track], but this push that we’ve launched on diversity and inclusion, sort of this pebble that creates an effect that others will hopefully follow in the industry has been something that I’m so proud to do. part.”
Comparison of the first title to Verstappen’s first title fight
Hamilton sparked a debate last month by suggesting that Verstappen had more “pressure” on his shoulders this year because it was his first championship fight. But he now says Verstappen is definitely better prepared when he returned when he won his first title in 2008.
“I don’t spend a moment thinking about what might or might not be a distraction for him, I don’t mind anyway. If I’m doing my job to the best of my ability, I’m fine. C this is how I approach my job.
“My first title? It was horrible. The trip was terrible, but what is it, six years later? I was in my sophomore year.
“I didn’t have a big structure around me in terms of management, I didn’t have any help in knowing how to manage all these balls of curves that were sent to me. I didn’t have all the experience, I didn’t have all the tools – except the ones in the car – but I was learning all these other tools to know how to be a good teammate, to work with a group of people and help them rise, and all that kind of stuff. things for me then.
“I’m grateful to have had experiences, I know how to build my team, I know how to win with my team and I know how to enjoy the ups and downs with my team.”