Shreya – Year 12 Student
Editor’s note: This short essay was recently entered into the GSAL Black History Essay Writing Competition, organized by The GSAL Journal and UPSoc to coincide with Black History Month. Open to all students in Year 10-13, the purpose of the competition was to encourage students to undertake independent research, think critically and communicate clearly about an aspect of black history of interest to them. The Competition Poster provides more information about the competition brief and success criteria. CPD
Over 100 crashes, 27 DNF’S, severe racial abuse, and yet Number 44 continues to prove to the world that he is one of the best this sport has seen. Sir Lewis Hamilton is undoubtedly one of the best Formula One drivers to have existed but, behind all the fame and glory he’s faced so many hardships you wouldn’t wish on anyone.
Hamilton began his career much like every other F1 driver: fighting his way through the go karting championships despite being the only black racing driver. At just the age of 10, Lewis achieved the unimaginable: he won the British karting Championship.
Lewis grew up in Stevenage, where bullying and racial taunts were consistent features of his everyday life. His dad was and is his rock. His mother, a white woman, often felt helpless when Lewis would come back from a day at school or on track, but his Grenadian-British father was always there to give him the best advice possible. Lewis often describes his father as a tough man and, whilst he often felt obliged to keep his feelings of despair to himself, the sport he threw himself into was an incredible outlet. He had the ability to get into his go kart and wave to his haters as he passed them and that was a feeling like no other. As well as go karting, Lewis was a persistent boxer; this allowed him to channel his pain, and he participated in karate to gain the ability to physically defend himself.
But it was racing that was the best release for Hamilton: Stevenage’s most famous mastermind, Hamilton is now one of the most highly regarded racing drivers with 100 wins (achieved on the 26/9/2021), over 100 pole positions and many podium finishes. He has beaten the greatest Michael Schumacher and if he wins the World Championship this year he will be the greatest Formula One driver of all time.
We are living in the same generation as a legend.
Over the last 18 months, Hamilton has started to use his voice and take the steps to create change. He has begun taking the knee; despite the severe and unnecessary backlash he has faced. 2020 was a massive year for the Black Lives Matter movement as it opened up many people’s eyes and forced them to recognise the privilege they hold in their hands. Hamilton completely changed the way the media, fans and others viewed him as he went from a racing savvy obsessed legend to a “politically aware role model” (described by The Guardian). He is recognising his own privilege and turning the sport that presented him with his fame and fortune and fighting to have more racial diversity and a significant outreach to underrepresented and marginalised groups.
|Figure 2 Lewis taking the knee at a Grand Prix in 2020|
Lewis revealed that in his team only 3% of its Formula One staff were from ethnic minorities and thus began his journey in 2019 with the Royal Academy of Engineering to investigate ways to increase diversity in all aspects of the sport. The Lewis Hamilton Commission was published on the 13 July and its work include: anti-racist curriculum; actively promoting STEM subjects to pupils of colour; and will also tarry graduate programmes and will provide motorsport apprentices. Hamilton has promised to keep this momentum of change going so he too can help children who were just like him. Shreya