Hamilton urges unity as Mercedes use black livery
Silver Arrows unveil change in commitment to diversity Team principal Wolff reveals detailed review of recruitment
As Formula One seeks to rebuild its gutted shell of a season in Austria this week, world champions Mercedes are poised to deliver their most striking statement yet, unveiling an all-black base livery in solidarity with Black Lives Matter, the movement passionately championed by Lewis Hamilton.
While a change of colour scheme might appear from a distance a largely cosmetic gesture, it marks a radical shift in identity for the Silver Arrows, who, in common with rival teams, have come under intense pressure to reform from Hamilton’s advocacy for greater diversity in F1.
Toto Wolff, team principal, disclosed yesterday that Mercedes’ aesthetic revamp, also featuring the slogan “End Racism” on the halos of both cars, would be matched by a detailed review of the team’s recruitment policy.
Across Mercedes, only three per cent of the workforce belong to minority ethnic groups, while just 12 per cent of employees are women. “Having the right beliefs and the right mindset isn’t enough if we remain silent,” Wolff said. “We wish to use our voice and our global platform to speak up for respect and equality.
“The Silver Arrows will race in black for the entire 2020 season, to show our commitment to diversity within our team and our sport. We will not shy away from our weaknesses in this area, nor from the progress we must still make. Our livery is our public pledge to take positive action.”
Wolff insisted that Mercedes would rethink its approach to entice talent from the broadest spectrum. The team’s reinvention marks the latest phase of a remarkable awakening in F1, which has tended to move glacially on matters of race. In the space of a fortnight, Chase Carey, the sport’s chief executive, has donated more than £800,000 of his own money to fund a diversity task force, aimed at encouraging young racers from under-represented backgrounds, while savaging predecessor Bernie Ecclestone, whose contribution to a sensitive debate was to argue: “In lots of cases, black people are more racist than white people.”
Hamilton, who has also condemned Ecclestone’s remarks, was the catalyst for Mercedes’ change in look and philosophy, spelling out clearly to Wolff and the team’s board the progress he expected.
“It’s so important that we seize this moment and use it to educate ourselves,” he said. “I have personally experienced racism in my life, as have my family and friends, and I am speaking from the heart when I appeal for change.
“When I spoke to Toto about my hopes for what we could achieve as a team, I said it was important that we stand united. I would like to say a huge thank you to him for taking the time to listen, to talk, and to understand my experiences and passion, and for making this important statement that we are willing to change and improve.
“We want to build a legacy that goes beyond sport, and if we can be the leaders by building diversity within our own business, it will send a strong message.”
While Mercedes’ cars will retain the green trim of title sponsor Petronas, the red elements of principal partner Ineos, and the speckling of the signature threepointed star on its engine cover, the rest of the livery will be vividly black. The team’s transition from silver, a feature since its debut in 1954, will be far from the only symbol of F1’s progressive credentials in Austria. The sport launched its “We Race As One” campaign last week and intends to brand all 20 cars with the slogan in Spielberg. Hamilton has announced that he is creating a commission in partnership with the Royal Academy of Engineering to increase black participation in motorsport. Valtteri Bottas, Hamilton’s team-mate, said: “F1 is a world defined by performance, but it still contains many barriers for people from backgrounds that haven’t traditionally been part of the sport. We know that our teams are stronger when they are more representative of society.” Both drivers will race in black overalls until the end of the 2020 championship.