‘I cannot stay silent’: Lewis Hamilton discusses fighting racism by taking a knee on the race track as he is named GQ’s Game Changer Of The Year

A report by Roxy Simons for The Daily Mail.

Lewis Hamilton has said he ‘cannot stay silent’ in the face of racism as he discussed why he takes the knee on the race track.

The Formula One champion, 35, spoke candidly with GQ magazine about the topic after they named him their Game Changer Of The Year on Thursday.

Saying he wanted to fight racism to change the experiences of younger generations, he admitted: ‘I started experiencing racism when I was five and people looked upon it so lightly, when someone would throw out these words, the bullying and the beatings and the intimidation.

‘My dad always said, “Do your talking on the track,” so I held my tongue, but we suppress a lot of things and all my suppressed emotions came up and I was like, “You know what? I have to do something. I cannot stay silent.”

‘If we all stay silent, it will continue for generations. I look at my niece and nephew and do not want them to experience what I experienced.’

In July, Lewis took the knee before the Austrian Grand Prix, and described it as an emotional and poignant chapter in his battle to make Formula One a more inclusive sport. 

At the race, Lewis wore a Black Lives Matter T-shirt and was joined by 13 of his contemporaries who knelt in the moments before the sport’s opening round of the season in Spielberg. 

GQ asked Lewis about how rules of the sport were changed following the Tuscan Grand Prix, meaning racers are essentially banned from wearing shirts with political statements after he wore one asking for the officers who killed Breonna Taylor to be arrested.

Questioned if he’ll ignore the ban, Lewis said: ‘If I believe it is important enough, I will. I will do it again. 

‘Every weekend that I arrive we have the spotlight on us and every weekend there is an opportunity to raise awareness. We don’t live in a time when everything is OK. 

‘And I remember as I went through the day I was like, “OK, I’ve got to win this race. I can’t come second and wear this top.”

‘So I remember racing my heart out, pushing with every ounce for first place and I remember getting that win and I was like, “OK. I’m here for you, Breonna.” 

And I put that shirt on and in the 70 years of our sport, no one’s ever stood up there for anything but themselves. And I was standing up there for someone else.’

Lewis also went on to talk about his future in the sport, saying he felt his ‘skills are getting sharper’ the longer he stays in the sport.

‘Mmy intuition and understanding of strategy, my understanding of my tires… I’m getting stronger and I didn’t expect that,’ he claimed. 

‘And I didn’t know at what point I was going to plateau, but I’m realising that I’m getting better and that is a great feeling. But it doesn’t come without the hard work.

‘There’s no coincidence that I’m driving the way I am. And, of course, we do live now in a sport where there’s such a gap between all the teams. 

‘And people try to devalue what I do because of the machine that I have, so without doubt, I would love to have everyone in the same car, with a track that enables you to really, really race.’

GQ Men Of The Year Awards 2020 in association with Hugo Boss is available to view via British GQ’s YouTube channel on Thursday 26 November 2020 at 8pm. 

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