A commission set up by seven-time world champion Lewis Hamilton to increase the representation of Black people in U.K. motorsport has delivered its recommendations to bring about change in the industry.
Working alongside the Royal Academy of Engineering, the Hamilton Commission was launched last year with the aim of understanding why a relatively small amount of Black students pursue careers in motorsport.
Following ten months of research, the Hamilton Commission identified a number of reasons for the lack of representation, ranging from the geographical location of the main motorsport hubs away from Black communities in the U.K. to wider societal issues, including examples of racism within further education and the disproportionate number of exclusions of Black students from schools.
It stated that “factors within wider society, some of which are systemic in nature, as well as practices within Formula One have been identified as contributing towards a situation in which only 1 percent of employees in Formula One are from Black backgrounds”.
Hamilton, who is F1’s only Black driver, said he recognised some of the obstacles highlighted in the report from his own experiences, but was also surprised at the extent of some of the issues.
“While I have enjoyed a successful career in motorsport, it’s been a lonely path as one of the few Black individuals within Formula One and, after fifteen years of waiting for the industry to catch up, I realised I had to take action myself,” he said.
“Through the commission’s research, we can see there are clear meaningful steps the motorsport industry needs to take towards creating a more inclusive environment where diversity can thrive but also that we must tackle the barriers facing Black students that exist throughout their educational journey.
“Some of these barriers I recognise from my own experiences, but our findings have opened my eyes to just how far reaching these problems are. Now that I’m armed with the commission’s recommendations, I am personally committed to ensuring they are put into action.”
The recommendations laid out in the Hamilton Commission’s full report were split into three key areas — support and empowerment, accountability and measurement, and inspiration and engagement — and included the following actions:
Asking that Formula One teams (and other motorsports organisations) take the lead in implementing a Diversity and Inclusion Charter for motorsport to commit the sector to improve diversity and inclusion across all organisations.
Calling for Formula One teams and other motorsport businesses to broaden access to motorsport by expanding the apprenticeships provision to include higher apprenticeships and degree apprenticeships as an alternate pathway into the sector, as well as availability to paid work placement and work experience schemes.
Establishment of a new exclusions innovation fund, to develop programmes that address the factors that contribute to the high proportion of students from Black backgrounds being excluded from schools.
Supporting the piloting of new approaches to increase the number of Black teachers in STEM subjects that lead to careers in engineering, namely mathematics, physics, design and technology, and computing.
Supporting the creation of scholarship programmes to enable Black graduates from degrees in engineering and allied subjects to progress into specialist motorsport roles.
Calling for additional STEM activity support to be provided to supplementary schools led by Black community groups across the UK.
Hamilton recently signed a new contract with Mercedes to continue in F1 for the next two years, which included the creation of a joint charitable foundation dedicated to improving inclusion and diversity in motorsport. He said the foundation would help to carry out the recommendations of the Hamilton Commission.
“At the core of this for me, whatever we found [in the research], it was really important that we actually actioned it — this is a commission of action,” Hamilton said.
“So I’m proud to say this includes the new foundation that I’m starting and the joint initiative I’m starting with Mercedes, which is amazing. They will be taking some of the recommendations forward, as will I, and we are working closely with the FIA, Formula One and other engineering stakeholders to support us. There is a lot more to come later in the month, so this really is just the beginning, and I couldn’t be more excited.
“The time to change is now, and the thing that I will be most proud of at the end of my career, or beyond, is to look back at the U.K. motorsport industry in five, 10 or 15 years from now and see it more representative of our society.”
Hamilton, who co-chaired the commission alongside the chief executive of the Royal Academy of Engineering, Dr Hayaatun Sillem, said the idea to create the commission was sparked by the lack of diversity in an end-of-year photo of the Mercedes F1 team in 2019.
“Growing up in motorsport I often looked around me and wondered why I was one of very few people of colour,” Hamilton said. “It’s not just about drivers, it’s more about the great job opportunities there are for mechanics and engineers, in marketing and in accounting.
“Over the years, I thought that me being there and being successful and at the front [of the grid] would open more doors to Black talent. But at the end of 2019, after the race in Abu Dhabi, I was looking at the team photos and it was a really stark reminder, as I zoomed in on those pictures, how little progress had been made in the sport being inclusive.
“That’s when I knew I needed to do more.”
On Tuesday, Formula One CEO Stefano Domenicali issued a statement saying F1 supports Hamilton’s push for increased diversity.
“The Hamilton Commission has delivered a comprehensive and impressive report that shows the passion Lewis has for this very important issue,” he said. “We will take the time to read and reflect on all of the findings, but we completely agree that we need to increase diversity across the sport and we have taken action to address this and will be announcing more actions in the coming days.
“We want a sport that is representative of our hugely diverse fan base and that is why Formula One, the FIA and all the teams are working hard to deliver on our detailed plans to create positive change across the sport. There is always more to do and the report will stimulate thoughts about further actions that are required.”