Six time Formula One champion Lewis Hamilton expressed shock and disappointment at racially divisive comments made by the former Formula One boss, Bernie Ecclestone.
Hamilton slammed the comments as ‘ignorant and uneducated’, and pointed out that the man who made them was perhaps the chief reason why Formula One refrained from changing racism within the sport.
In an interview with CNN, Ecclestone said ‘black people are sometimes more racist than white’, when he was asked to comment on Hamilton's recent anti-racism initiatives.
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Ecclestone started his interview by praising Hamilton for using his platform and campaigning but then expressed doubts about the creation of the driver’s Hamilton Commission, which hopes to steer more black youngsters into motor racing. Ecclestone said he doubted it would have any great effect.
"I don't think it's going to do anything bad or good for Formula One," he said. "It'll just make people think which is more important. I think that's the same for everybody. People ought to think a little bit and think: 'Well, what the hell. Somebody's not the same as white people and black people should think the same about white people. In lots of cases, black people are more racist than what white people are."
When challenged to elaborate, Ecclestone was not able to point at one particular incident to vouch for his opinion, saying that he had simply "noticed" it over the years.
Lewis Hamilton took to social media to hit back at Ecclestone. “So sad and disappointing to read these comments,” Hamilton wrote on his Instagram.
“Bernie is out of the sport and a different generation but this is exactly what is wrong: Ignorant and uneducated comments which show us how far we as a society need to go before real equality can happen.”
Hamilton noted that it ‘made complete sense’ for the sport to have failed to act on inequality and racial harassment when they were under the leadership of Ecclestone, saying ‘it starts from the top.’
"If someone who has run the sport for decades has such a lack of understanding of the deep-rooted issues we as black people deal with every day, how can we expect all the people who work under him to understand? It starts at the top.”
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Hamilton pledged to continue taking a stand to create a more equal sporting diaspora in the paddock saying: “Now the time has come for change. I will not stop pushing to create an inclusive future for our sport with equal opportunity for all. To create a world that provides equal opportunity for minorities.”
Earlier Formula One also released a statement distancing themselves from Ecclesotne’s statements. Condemning the former CEO’s comments, the statement also made clear that he no longer has any official capacity in the organisation.
“At a time when unity is needed to tackle racism and inequality, we completely disagree with Bernie Ecclestone’s comments that have no place in Formula 1 or society,” the statement said.
“Mr Ecclestone has played no role in Formula 1 since he left our organisation in 2017, his title Chairman Emeritus, being honorific, expired in January 2020.”
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