Viewers of the Tuscan Grand Prix last weekend will have seen Lewis Hamilton wearing a T-Shirt that said “arrest the cops who killed Breonna Taylor” and “say her name.” Hamilton wore the T-Shirt for the pre-race anti-racism demonstration and on the podium he secured after winning the race.
Formula 1’s governing body the FIA has been considering whether Hamilton broke any rules by wearing this T-Shirt.
There is no outright FIA rule that disallows Hamilton’s actions, but the FIA is a signatory of the Olympic Charter, which forbids any “kind of demonstration or political, religious or racial propaganda.”
Breonna Taylor was an aspiring nurse, who was shot and killed in her US home by three plain-clothes police officers in March. None of the officers have been charged.
My personal qualm with the FIA considering investigating Hamilton’s actions is that it leads me to believe the FIA’s current anti-racism, and the pro-diversity campaign, is performative. This campaign includes anti-racism demonstrations before every race.
Nonetheless, the FIA has decided not to investigate Hamilton’s actions but has decided to provide drivers with clarified guidelines concerning pre and post-race activities, which includes what may and may not be worn. It is not clear as to whether Hamilton’s T-Shirt will be allowed with these newly clarified guidelines.
They preach about anti-racism but if you watch Formula 1, not just the drivers but also the Team Principals, TV presenters and crew, you will see that Formula 1 is not a massively diverse sport. It is overwhelmingly a white, male sport, and something that I hope to see change in the coming years. This change, however, will be borne from high-profile drivers standing up for what they believe in, and using their platform for good.
Hamilton wearing this shirt is him embracing their campaign and putting it into action. As the sports most high-profile figure, particularly in the US and the only black driver out of the twenty Formula 1 drivers, his voice is particularly powerful.
Mercedes F1 boss Toto Wolff said Hamilton had the team’s full support to highlight racial injustice however he saw fit. When criticised for bringing politics into the sport, Mercedes's social media team responded “this is basic human rights. Not politics. Big difference!”
It was, however, great to see one of the most diverse podiums in Formula 1 history on Sunday, with two BAME drivers out of the three, Lewis Hamilton in first and Alexander Albon, a Thai driver in third. It was the first time in Formula 1 history that a Thai flag has been on the podium.