Formula One and “We Stand Together”: The Drivers Speak Up

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Formula One has received a mixture of praise and criticism for its stance and promotion of equality. Volunteer writer, Amy Frith, discusses what needs to be done and how the drivers have shown support or, a lack of support, to the speaking up of social issues within the competition.

After the announcement that the Qatar Grand Prix would fill the missing gap in the 2021 season, there was backlash from fans. A number of Formula One races take place in countries that have a history of human rights abuses, such as Saudi Arabia, Hungary and the United Arab Emirates (UAE). Many of these have multi-year contracts, with Qatar’s being extended after 2023 also. This decision, it appears, is down to sponsorship money, and it is the drivers who have begun to take a stand on social issues which they see being abused in the sport. With the Grand Prix also marking a year until the 2022 World Cup in Qatar, it highlighted the laws against the LGBTQ+ community against it’s own citizens. 

Formula One introduced their ‘We Race as One’ initiative since 2020, where it promotes equality through the sport, but this almost seems hypocritical when racing at tracks in states which do not respect the human rights of their own citizens. The aims of the platform are to tackle “the biggest issues facing [the]sport and global communities”. The drivers and teams have been outspoken about social issues such as racism and LGBT rights before, and Lewis Hamilton has been at the centre of this in recent years.  

Hamilton, who continually uses his platform to stand up for the BLM movement and the LGBT community, decided to use a special helmet for the Qatar Grand Prix. His helmet design incorporated the rainbow colours of the LGBTQ+ flag, along with the words “we stand together”. He has been praised online by fans for this as a statement against the Qatari laws which ban same sex relationships and homosexuality. It was also announced that Hamilton would use this race helmet for the final two races of the calendar, where the races take place in Saudi Arabia and UAE. 

Since his victory at the inaugural race, Hamilton has said that he wanted to educate himself more on the issues for the LGBT community and what he can do to help, and that “the sport and all the drivers together, and athletes, can do more”. As the first black driver to compete in Formula 1, and still be the only one, Hamilton has continually expressed his aim to champion the sport as one for inclusion and wanting to understand the reasoning behind the small number of black and LGBTQ+ people who work within the sport. 

His support for the community is amongst many other drivers, with 4-time world championship winning Sebastian Vettel also having a special rainbow helmet during the Hungarian Grand Prix in July this year. Vettel has been outspoken on several occasions for his support of the LGBTQ+ community. He was reprimanded after the Hungarian Grand Prix for not removing his We Race As One t-shirt during the national anthem; also saying that “they can do whatever they [the stewards]want to me I don’t care, I would do it again” and that “it’s a sad world in some regards, but if it helps for supporting those people who suffer in countries that are part of the European Union, I’m happy to express myself” . 

For Hamilton, he will continue to raise awareness for minority groups within Formula One. His Hamilton Commission which was released earlier in the year has investigated why there are little black and minority ethnic people within Formula 1 and motorsport, and he aims to use this to create opportunities and open the sport up. 

 

 

Article by Amy Frith.

Edited by Emily Jackson – Label Editor.

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