F1 has recently come to the fore in promoting inclusivity and diversity within itself, and seven-time world champion Lewis Hamilton has been spearheading the charge for the same. Being the only black driver on the grid, the Briton has faced his share of discrimination throughout his career, which has primed him to lead F1's initiative of #WeRaceAsOne.
In light of this initiative, one must remember that the sport has seen multiple people of color grace the grid as drivers. It is, however, yet to see a gay F1 driver. Matt Bishop, Aston Martin F1's Chief Communication Officer and one of the few openly out gay team members on the grid, feels that the arrival of an LGBTQ+ driver will usher in a significant change in the sport. In an interview with GPblog, he said:
“If a Formula 1 driver came out as gay, he would have an enormous amount of media coverage. At least in the Netherlands and the UK, and many other western countries, I think it would be largely positive. Of course, there would be negatives and bullying on social media, Tom Daley (British Olympic gold medalist diver who came out as gay in 2013) and others have that every day. It’s an unpleasant thing and it’s something they shoulder with courage. But it’s gradually getting less I think.”
To further his point, Bishop invented a fictional character called Jonny Jenkins during the interview. He imagined Jenkins to be a gay racing driver who would win the Monaco GP one day and described the after-effects as:
“On the podium, he sprayed the champagne, walked down and kissed his boyfriend on the lips. Dedicated his win to gay, LGBTQ+ athletes everywhere. He would become, just like Tom Daley, an extraordinary powerful role model. He would also be the biggest superstar in the sporting world.”
Lewis Hamilton a 'role model' in F1's drive for inclusivity: Matt Bishop
In the same interview, Matt Bishop described Lewis Hamilton as 'a role model' in F1 when it came to speaking up for inclusivity and against discrimination of any kind. Hamilton, along with now-retired fellow world champion Sebastian Vettel, has been one of the few voices embracing change in the societal norms of the world and using their stature to propagate it in F1.
“Life deals you the cards that life deals you. Lewis Hamilton is a role model, and perhaps all he ever wanted to do was race cars which he is extremely good at doing. But because he was the only black driver, perhaps he was dealt a card by life that he has to accept.
“He has embraced it enormously, I worked with him for five years when we were at McLaren together. He has been in the sport for 15 years. He started out at 22, now he’s a slightly older man at 37. That writes a passage from 22 to 37. We all do a lot of maturing, and professional sports people do as well. It took time, you grow up and mature. He has embraced Black Lives Matter; he has become one of the most important sporting spokespersons for anti-racism. I think what he is doing is fantastic. If Jonny Jenkins did what I hypothetically suggested, then I would hope he would take on board his responsibility and privilege to be that role model.”
Lewis Hamilton has been leading the fight for equality and inclusivity in F1 and has criticized the sport on multiple occasions for its apparent disregard for its own stated goals of a sport without discrimination. His crusade spills beyond the track, as exemplified by his creation of an eponymous commission that finds ways to engage more youngsters from black backgrounds in under-represented sports like F1 and fields like STEM.
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