The Daily Telegraph - Business : 2020-07-03

Sport : 17 : 9

Sport

9 The Daily Telegraph Friday 3 July 2020 *** nd no champagne Oliver Brown Chief Sports Feature Writer Shaming tactics must stop if sport is to overhaul its image A s familiar as we are with seeing orchestrat­ed shows of solidarity in sport, it will still be quite the moment if, on Sunday, all 20 Formula One drivers follow their observance of Austria’s national anthem by taking the knee. These are young men who tend, in less febrile times, to be untroubled by issues outside their orbit. Earlier this year, Daniel Ricciardo struggled even to muster a reaction to the bushfires engulfing his native Australia. “We weren’t affected in Perth,” he said. We can be forgiven, then, for being a touch sceptical about his reinventio­n since as a cultural revolution­ary. Lewis Hamilton, by contrast, has taken the scorched-earth approach to promoting the causes closest to his heart. In recent weeks, he has been British sport’s loudest voice on the George Floyd killing, the toppling of the Colston statue, and all points on the compass in between. At the same time, he has turned on fellow members of the F1 paddock for their reticence. “Just know I know who you are,” he said. “And I see you.” He sought to clarify yesterday that he was not referring to other drivers directly, but to the entire motor racing industry. Trouble is, his peers did not take it that way. Fearing they had just been Instagrams­hamed, Ricciardo, Charles Leclerc and George Russell all rushed out statements of their own to stress how much they cared about the Floyd tragedy and the disturbing questions it raised. It all looked a little hasty and uncomforta­ble, especially in the case of Leclerc, a highly intelligen­t soul who prefers to keep his own counsel, as shown by his habit of preparing for a race by leaning quietly against a wall, ignoring the hundreds of cameras thrust in his face. “To be honest, I felt out of place sharing my thoughts on social media, and this is why I haven’t expressed myself earlier,” Leclerc wrote. “I still struggle to find the words to describe the atrocity of some videos I’ve seen. Racism needs to be met with actions, not silence.” His response was of a careful kind, which Hamilton struggles to compute. There was no reason to doubt that Leclerc was perturbed by Speaking out: Lewis Hamilton has been critical of motor racing’s silence over racism events in the United States, but his difference from the six-time world champion was that he chose not to signify as much on his online platforms. This should hardly be an offence. Hamilton, for all his commendabl­e activism, cannot seem to accept that outrage and passionate reactions to injustice are still valid without a hashtag in front of them. All of which begs the question of what is motivating the drivers when, as expected, they take the knee in Spielberg this weekend. Is this a deep matter of conscience for them, or have they simply felt strong-armed by Hamilton into doing so? There is the intriguing example of Lando Norris, McLaren’s young star, widely quoted this week on his urgings for “It’s something I’ve been aware of for a long, long time, without really seeing anyone doing anything about it,” he said. In the interests of balance, though, it is worth exploring what, in practical terms, Hamilton has done to transform the face of his sport. In the past fortnight, he has created the Hamilton Commission, designed to encourage more young people from under-represente­d background­s to contemplat­e a future in motorsport. But this is his 14th season in F1, so what else, since 2007, has he done to help smooth the pathways for those from minority groups to follow his lead? Frankly, not a great deal. Hamilton just assumed that he would inspire other black drivers to emulate him by his achievemen­ts alone. He has admitted as much, explaining: “There was a point when I thought that maybe by me being here, and breaking down barriers, that I could help change the industry for the better. But it has not done enough.” It is tempting to subscribe to a narrative of Hamilton as the lone crusader, shepherdin­g F1 out of the darkness and into the light. But the harsh truth is that nobody within F1, not even him, has acted with any vigour until now to overhaul the image of a white-dominated sport. This is why it is galling to see him calling out others so readily for being opposed to progress. Last month, Hamilton had to apologise to Helmut Marko, having wrongly alleged that the Red Bull adviser suggested his pursuit of racial equality was a distractio­n. This is not a moment for triggerhap­py condemnati­on by Hamilton or anyone else. F1 as a collective has been complicit in perpetuati­ng the status quo. If it is sincere about moving on, the shaming tactics have to stop. Carefully controlled: Sebastian Vettel and his Ferrari team inspect the Spielberg track (top); Red Bull’s Max Verstappen and Alexander Albon wear masks to speak to the press (left); an AlphaTauri mechanic at work (middle); the Mercedes garage (right) The harsh truth is that nobody in F1, not even Hamilton, has acted with any vigour until now likely to be choreograp­hed to demonstrat­e that the sport is united in the battle against racism. Hamilton had been critical of both his peers and the sport for initially failing to speak up about the matter, provoking a number of them – including Ferrari’s Charles Leclerc and young British driver Lando Norris – to post anti-racism statements on social media. Hamilton will carry the “End Racism” message on his Mercedes, while he and team-mate Valtteri Bottas also unveiled yesterday the new black racing suits they will use this season. Hamilton then suggested rival teams could be doing more. “I have not heard anything from any of the other teams,” he said. “The call-out on social media was for everyone in this industry. There are very few opportunit­ies shown to minorities, so more needs to be done for sure. I will not stop pushing until we really see change. Seeing one face of colour added to the paddock is not diversity, so we need to dig deep, pull together and do what we can to shift this. “There are a lot of people who take a moment to post on social media for the Blackout Tuesday campaign but then are not really doing much. It is not enough to then go back to your regular lives. “Black people don’t have the privilege to be able to take a moment out. The industry has to stay on top of it. Our voices are powerful and if you bring them together as a collective we can have a huge impact.” F1 to unite against racism. “We all need to do more,” he said. Norris has not, it would be fair to say, found himself compelled to speak out in this manner before. That is because he has limited life experience, and is more at home live-streaming his simulator racing on Twitch. In normal circumstan­ces, you would no sooner regard him as an authority on race relations than you would the Milkybar Kid. As dubious as the drivers’ credential­s are, perhaps it is sufficient to celebrate the fact that F1 is at last throwing its weight behind equality and diversity, when for years it has done nothing. This, Hamilton insisted yesterday, was his intention all along: to shake the sport out of its complacenc­y.

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