Lewis Hamilton has vowed to continue promoting his anti-racism message and drawing attention to incidents of racial injustice after he avoided any action by Formula One’s governing body for the T-shirt he wore at Sunday’s Tuscan Grand Prix.
The world champion made his statement after it became clear he is not being investigated by the FIA for wearing the top highlighting the death of Breonna Taylor. The governing body is, however, believed to be reviewing its guidelines for what drivers can and cannot do before and after races.
“Want you to know I won’t stop using this platform to shed light on what I believe is right,” Hamilton wrote on Instagram on Tuesday. “This is a journey for all of us to come together and challenge the world on every level of injustice, not only racial.”
Hamilton had worn a T-shirt with the statement “Arrest the cops that killed Breonna Taylor” before the race at Mugello. The 26-year-old Taylor was shot dead in her home by police in Kentucky in March. Hamilton wore the message again for the post-race interviews and on the podium. “I have been wanting to wear that and bring awareness to the fact that people are being killed on the street and someone was killed in her own house. They were in the wrong house and those guys are still walking free,” he said.
It had been reported that he was under investigation by the FIA for breaking its international sporting code. The body is also a signatory to the Olympic charter which proscribes the “demonstration or political, religious or racial propaganda”. However, it is understood that no investigation was launched, although a review of policy is taking place.
The situation is a potential PR disaster for F1. Hamilton remains the sport’s only black driver and is the only driver who has a major following in the US. He has been at the forefront of pushing F1 to adopt a strong anti-racist stance and it was his vocal condemnation of the killing of George Floyd that led to many other drivers speaking out alongside him.
He has established a foundation to explore how the sport may improve diversity and has been strident in his support of the Black Lives Matter movement. His stance has been widely admired and for the sport to be seen attempting to silence its biggest star would be potentially very damaging.
Hamilton also received the full backing of his Mercedes team. “We’re not bringing politics into F1, these are human rights issues that we are trying to highlight and raise awareness of. There’s a big difference,” Mercedes wrote on social media. The team principal, Toto Wolff, also backed Hamilton. “Whatever he does, we will support,” Wolff said. “The team is fighting against any kind of racism and discrimination and it is Lewis’s personal fight for Black Lives Matter and with all the support we can give him. It’s his call.”
F1 has history with punishing what are seen as overtly political statements. In 2006 the organisers of the Turkish Grand Prix were issued a $5m fine after the Turkish Cypriot leader Mehmet Ali Talat presented the winner’s trophy announced as “President of the Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus”, a state recognised only by Turkey.