Lewis Hamilton has insisted his support for anti-racism and protests against incidences of racial injustice will not be inhibited by any new FIA rulings. Hamilton attracted controversy at the last meeting at Mugello by wearing a T-shirt bearing the words “Arrest the cops that killed Breonna Taylor” before and after the race.
Speaking in the buildup to this weekend’s Russian Grand Prix, where the FIA is expected to clarify rules on what drivers can and cannot wear, Hamilton restated his determination to continue pursuing what he described as a human rights issue rather than a political point.
“I don’t know what they [the FIA] are going to do this weekend,” he said. “Lots of rules have been written for me over the years and they haven’t stopped me.”
Since the Tuscan Grand Prix there has been expectation that the FIA would react to Hamilton’s protest at the death of Taylor, the 26-year-old who was shot dead in her home by police in Kentucky in March. On Wednesday one officer was charged with wanton endangerment in connection with her death.
Hamilton has been a strident supporter of the Black Lives Matter movement and wore the T-shirt as a pre-race anti-racism gesture in Mugello and again for the podium ceremony after his victory. The FIA is a signatory to the Olympic charter which forbids any form of demonstration or political, religious or racial propaganda.
In Sochi, Hamilton was unapologetic. “I don’t regret a single moment of it,” he said. “I follow my heart and do what is right and that was me following my heart. I did something that has never really happened in F1 and obviously they will stop it from happening moving forwards.
“People talk about sport not being a place for politics but ultimately it is a human rights issue and that is something we should be pushing towards. We have a huge, amazing group of people that watch our sport from different backgrounds and cultures and we should be pushing positive messages towards them, especially for equality.”
He said he had not spoken with the FIA. Hamilton has led the call for change since the killing of George Floyd and his stance has encouraged other drivers to speak out and for F1 to adopt a strong public anti-racism stance. The world champion conceded that the process was one that was evolving across F1 but also stressed he believed his actions in wearing the T-shirt had proved to be a potent weapon in drawing attention to racial injustice.
“This is a learning process for everyone” he said. “People have been happy with the norm here of how life and society has operated but the world and the younger generation in particular are more conscious that things aren’t equal and that change is needed. It takes conversations with people and things like Mugello to spark a conversation that perhaps would never have taken place.”
He was also unsure that the FIA yet fully grasped the import of the cause he was championing nor how difficult it might be. “I will continue to work with them but do I believe they fully understand? I don’t know. Perhaps in the future we all will to the same extent,” he said. “It’s not something that is going to change overnight, it will take a long, long time. It won’t be over in my career or even in my lifetime but the goal is to change things for future generations.”
Hamilton goes into the race at Sochi leading the word championship by 55 points from his Mercedes teammate Valtteri Bottas. A win will draw him level with to Michael Schumacher’s record of 91 F1 victories.