In the last scene of season three of Netflix’s fly-on-wall series Formula 1: The Drive to Survive, we see a news reporter interviewing a young Lewis Hamilton. “As Lewis began to win, the fact that he was the only black face on the grid became an issue,” says the reporter.
Hamilton is not talking about all the success he is having but instead about the racist abuse he has experienced while karting. “In the past years, I’ve had racist names called to me but lately anybody that’s said anything to me I just ignore them,” says a young Lewis.
It cuts to his dad, Anthony. “We don’t get involved with people who have problems about whether we win or what colour we are,” he says. “We go out on our track and do our best.”
The footage is heartbreaking. Here’s a young boy doing what he loves, with a dream to get to Formula 1 and maybe one day be world champion, but while having to face discrimination and be grilled about it. No ‘How are you finding your karting?’ questions, just ‘What’s it like to be abused for the colour of your skin?’
“I was just eight years old,” says a 36-year-old Hamilton reflecting on the report, now talking as a seven-time Formula 1 world champion. “For someone to look down at a young eight-year-old and tell them they’re not going to achieve anything in life, they must be in a really bad place.
In May last year, 46-year-old black American George Floyd was murdered by a white policeman in Minnesota. The shocking footage was seen by the world and ushered in a global anti-racism movement – one of the most vocal leaders of which was Lewis Hamilton.
“What happened with George brought up a lot of emotion,” Hamilton tells the Netflix show. “All of a sudden, these things that had been suppressed for my lifetime bubbled to the surface. I can no longer stay quiet.