Until recently, hypermasculinity was not unusual on the grid. The idea of playboys and racing heroes was heavily marketed - think James Hunt and his overalls: 'Sex, Breakfast of Champions’.
Racing was for cishet men, fawned over by grid girls and tobacco brands. Yet alongside Hunt and other legendary nameslike Stewart and Fittipaldi was a racer much lesser known, Mike Beuttler.
Beuttler raced in F1 from 1971 to 1973, and by old standards he did not achieve any points finishes. After his brief stint in F1, he vanished off the grid until his death in 1988. While deemed the first and only
openly gay male F1 driver, Beuttler often showed up to races with women at his side and retired to the United States, where homosexuality was more open. Former journalist and friend Ian Phillips mentioned in an interview with Racing Pride, “In the early ‘70s it just wasn’t a thing that was really openly discussed” and “It’s funny because I’m not sure anybody really knew. We all just kind of suspected it.”
First unveiled last year, the #WeRaceAsOne initiative was met with much support. But that slowly faltered, particularly during Nikita Mazepin’s controversy, and for 2021 F1 dropped the rainbow logo that was made up of the 10 team’s colours. (likely in anticipation of major team changes).
Yet many fans, especially upon seeing McLaren Racing’s adoption of full rainbow colours on the car, racesuits and advertising, could have been easily mislead.
The statement issued by the Woking team ambiguously cited it as representation for essential workers but also pledged allegiance to “help progress the agenda of diversity.” Hollow or misrepresented shows of support can be more damaging than if they were never mentioned in the first place, and with the influence that McLaren and F1 have this could uphold the idea that LGBTQ drivers aren’t seen and supported.
Replacing a core LGBTQ symbol to represent essential workers, while meaningful, has potential to cause discontent. Change is slow, but if F1 were to deliberately tackle this issue in a time where motorsports is gaining traction amongst younger, more accepting audiences, perhaps a new era can emerge where all spheres of diversity are supported.