Lewis Hamilton is the only black driver in Formula 1, and also one of the most successful stars of the sport. However, the beginnings were not easy, as he now speaks out admitting he had to suppress himself just because of the color of his skin.
Racism is a disease that the world is sadly continuing to battle – However, things are changing for the better, with Lewis Hamilton being a catalyst of that change by using his influence to spread awareness and improve the situation.
Speaking with The Guardian, the Mercedes driver talked about the difficulties of his beginnings, not only in racing but also in his personal and social life.
Hamilton is of mixed race; he was born to a white mother and a black father and admits that his mother wasn’t able to fully understand what he was going through because of the color of his skin.
“My mum was wonderful,” he said. “She was so loving. But she didn’t fully understand the impact of the things I was experiencing at school. The bullying and being picked on. And my dad was quite tough, so I didn’t tell him too much about those experiences. As a kid, I remember just staying quiet about it because I didn’t feel anyone really understood. I just kept it to myself.”
He recalls his beginnings in karting – he said he was the only kid of color on track, and admits using the bad energy of others allowed him to improve himself and beat his rivals.
“I got in a car and I was the only kid of color on the track. And I’d be getting pushed around. But then I could always turn their energy against them. I’d out-trick them, outsmart them, outwit them and beat them, and that, for me, was more powerful than any words.”
Hamilton was racially discriminated throughout his growth in the sport, with the most notorious incident being during the 2008 Spanish Grand Prix, when people painted themselves back and mocked his family, as he recalls, saying the sport remained silent.
“In Spain, in 2008, people painted themselves black and put on wigs, and were really mocking my family. And I remember the sport not saying anything about it.”
“I remember not being able to be myself,” Hamilton said. “Of not being able to speak the way I want to speak. That’s the point of all this inclusivity: including people and not asking them in order to fit.
“I remember feeling that I had to be a different shape. The entry point to my sport was a square and I was like a hexagon, and I thought, ‘I’m never going to fit through that bloody thing.’
“So I had to morph my way in in order to fit into that world, and then try to get back into the shape I was before.”
To conclude, Hamilton said he doesn’t want to be remembered only as a racing driver.
“We’ll see where we can go. As the years pass, you realize that success is a wonderful thing. But it feels relatively short-lived. And I don’t just want to be remembered as a driver, because I care about so many more different things.”