Sky Sports F1 commentator Martin Brundle and fellow analyst Karun Chandhok say that reigning F1 champion Lewis Hamilton has fully earned the right to speak out on racism.
Hamilton has been extremely active on social media in the last few days, speaking out about the Black Lives Matter movement around the world in the wake of the death of George Floyd in Minneapolis at the hands of US police officers.
Hamilton also challenged his fellow drivers in F1 to speak out on the subject, prompting supportive responses from Charles Leclerc, Daniel Ricciardo, Lando Norris, George Russell, Carlos Sainz, Nicholas Latifi and Sergio Pérez.
Hamilton’s campaign has also been backed by F1’s director of motorsports Ross Brawn. “Lewis is a great ambassador for the sport, and I think his comments are very valid,” Brawn told Sky Sports F1 this week. “We support him completely.”
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And now Brundle has added his own backing to Hamilton’s decision to speak out on the issue. “He’s earned the right without any question at all,” the former Williams, McLaren and Benetton driver said.
“[He’s earned it] through talent, through adversity, hard-work, personal risk and winning six world championships in F1 to stand up and say the things he said.
“I’m proud of him and pleased that he did,” Brundle continued. “I support him in every way. He’s certainly made me stop and think it all through.
“I haven’t earned the right to add to the narrative of this,” he admitted. “I’m a white middle-class 60-year-old Englishman, and I’ve not been on the receiving end of racism.
“I’ve circulated the world for 40 years and I don’t have racist thoughts in any way,” he said. “I first met Lewis when I handed him a trophy at 12 or 13 years old at Buckmore Park,
“I never thought of him as a black driver,” he added. “He’s one of the greatest drivers of all time, if not heading towards the greatest we’ve seen so far.
“He’s hero-worshipped in our world. We see that at Silverstone when he’s carted across the crowd and they run onto the race track.”
But Brundle acknowledged that the current debate had opened his eyes to things that he had never fully realised.
“I had a fascinating conversation with Karun this morning about how you can have subconscious racist thoughts,” he said. “Again, that’s made me think long and hard about that.”
Chandhok himself – who took part in 11 Grand Prix races with HRT and Lotus between 2010 and 2011 – was similarly supportive of Hamilton’s campaign.
“I think he was absolutely right to go to the forefront and say things publicly,” he said on Sky Sports News. “But I also think he was right to call out the rest of the paddock and the rest of the sport.
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“I spoke with a number of people within the sport who felt it was a bit unfair because they didn’t believe they were racist and thought he was making generalisations.
“But I think they missed the point,” he insisted. “Lewis’ point seemed to be that it’s not enough to be non-racist: he’s calling for people within the sport to be actively anti-racist. He was right.
“Those like drivers who have a lot of followers on social media need to be actively speaking up to raise awareness of racial biases which do exist, and to make the wider world look for signs in everyday life.
“Ross mentioned on our show that Lewis is an excellent ambassador for the sport, something I agree with, I thought this was another clear sign of that.”
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