AUTHOR: SARAH SAUNDERS
As we begin National Inclusion Week 2021 we want to say a huge CONGRATULATIONS to Lewis Hamilton on his legacy defining 100th Formula One Grand Prix victory in Russia on Sunday. Hamilton is the first and only Black driver in F1 and undeniably the most successful racing driver of all time, owning F1 records for the most career wins, pole positions, podium finishes, career points and most laps led, but the British seven-times F1 World Champion is also leading a charge to transform his sport and wider society.
“In my early life, I experienced first-hand how coming from an under-represented background can affect your future, but luckily for me, I was able to overcome those odds through opportunity and support. I want to ensure other young people from similar backgrounds are able to do the same”
Motorsport is and should be for everybody, yet currently 97% of the Mercedes-AGM Petronas F1 team are White and it is estimated that less that 1% of the collective F1 workforce comes from a Black or other non-White background.
Following the murder of George Floyd and the galvanisation of the Black Lives Matter movement in 2020, despite continued racial abuse on social media, Lewis Hamilton has used his platform to call for the urgent need for change leading the industry to respond with public and financial commitments to tackle racism, inequality and other challenges facing the sport. In 2020 F1 launched the #WeRaceAsOne initiative which continues in 2021 with three key pillars – Diversity and Inclusion, Sustainability and Community.
In July 2021 The Hamilton Commission published their report ‘Accelerating Change: Improving Representation of Black People in UK Motorsport’ which identifies the key barriers to recruitment and progression of Black people in UK Motorsport. The Commission which concluded its research over a period of ten months proposed ten recommendations including F1 teams implementing a Diversity & Inclusion charter, piloting approaches to increase the number of Black teachers in STEM (Science Technology Engineering and Maths) subjects and schools adopting an anti-racism charter (work that the Anti Racist Cumbria Ambassador schools are already doing) and building STEM into a programme for graduates and those in post 16 education from diverse backgrounds – an area of study that has historically excluded Black students and where we would like to see our FE establishments and Universities proactively working to improve.
This year Hamilton also launched his charitable foundation, Mission 44 pledging £20million to support, champion and empower young people from under-represented groups in the UK, and to support organisations and programmes that seek to remove inequity in employment and the education system, and together with the Mercedes-AGM Petronas F1 team launched the joint charitable initiative ‘Ignite’, which will work closely with Mission 44 to act on the recommendations of the Hamilton Commission and will focus on building the pipeline of diverse talent entering Motorsport both on and off the track, ensuring better representation of diverse students studying STEM subjects, helping to develop more diverse educators and providing financial support to talented and motivated students experiencing financial barriers.
The Hamilton Commission has provided a fantastic foundation on which to build and see real and sustainable change. As part of our Transforming Education initiative, we continue to work in partnership with Cumbria County Council supporting 30 schools across the county as they complete our Anti Racist Audit, and as part of our wider commitment to Growing Grassroots and Impacting Leadership, last week our CEO Janett Walker met with Carol Glenn, Founder and Managing Director of Next Racing Generation Motorsport (NRG) to explore what we can do collaboratively in Cumbria. Carol, who contributed to the Hamilton Commission, has been a licenced race official for 30 years, is a Clerk of the Course for British Motorsport and is the first Black woman to have a Race and Speed licence in the UK.
NRG Motorsport is the first Black-owned Motorsport Team and provides Race Management, Media Training, Driver Coaching, Mentoring and Training to young people from diverse backgrounds who aspire to work within the Motorsport industry from designers, engineers, race mechanics and marshals, Esports, Karting, F1 rookie status and onwards.
Cumbria is home to some fabulous Motorsport organisations including Cumbria Kart Racing Club and M-Sport both putting our wonderful county on the map. As we continue to call for change and for a more inclusive and welcoming Cumbria, one that provides opportunities for all and encourages diverse talent from under-represented communities, we hope to see these initiatives having an impact here and welcome opportunities to co-create projects with educators and businesses that will generate meaningful change and a future that is bigger than the past.