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Lewis Hamilton has revealed that he was in tears at the Styrian Grand Prix last year as the emotions of his battle against racism in Formula One bubbled over. Hamilton has used his platform to lead the fight against discrimination and social injustice in the sport over the past year, but his noble stance has not been straightforward.
The 36-year-old has been vocal on the issue since the murder of George Floyd sparked the Black Lives Matter movement in 2020.
Hamilton has worn T-shirts supporting the movement, taken a knee before races and publicly called out some of his fellow drivers for not following his lead.
When other drivers refused to take a knee, the Briton said their “silence is complicit” with the racism the stance opposes.
The seven-time champion then also raised a fist for Black Power after winning last year’s Styrian Grand Prix in Austria.
Despite his campaigning, Hamilton won the 2020 Drivers’ Championship title, but he says his dual role took its toll.
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“This wrath of emotions came up and I couldn’t contain myself,” he told The Guardian of his experience at the Styrian Grand Prix.
“I was in tears. And this stuff came up that I’d suppressed over all these years. And it was so powerful and sad and also releasing.
“And I thought, ‘I can’t stay quiet. I need to speak out because there are people experiencing what I’m experiencing, or 10 times worse. Or 100 times worse. And they need me right now.’
“And so when I did speak out, that was me letting the Black community know: ‘I hear you and I stand with you’.”
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Hamilton remains F1’s only black driver – a fact that goes some way to explaining why he feels so passionately about the subject.
Growing up in the sport, Hamilton was subjected to racist abuse and, while things are gradually progressing, F1 is still some way off achieving diversity.
Hamilton recently signed a new contract with Mercedes, keeping him in the sport until the end of the 2023 season at least and he says is not going to stop speaking out against racism.
“I don’t see it as a burden,” he said.
“It was definitely liberating to be able to be open and speak about things. For people to know that there’s much more to me than perhaps they realised from watching me on TV.
“I feel like I was built for this. There’s a reason it was suppressed over all that time. And if it happened any sooner I wouldn’t be ready, wouldn’t be strong enough to handle it.
“I wouldn’t be able to do my job as well and do both things at the same time.
“But now I’m equipped with the tools to do so. I look at my niece and nephew. I look at my little cousins. And I think, ‘How can I make things better for you guys and your friends?’”
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