Lewis Hamilton, Formula 1’s first black driver and five-time champion, is dominating the 2019 schedule and is a heavy favorite to win his sixth driver’s title. He won his first title with McLaren and the remainder with Mercedes, for whom he still drives.
Hamilton, an Englishman, told reporters at the Canadian Grand Prix in Montreal last week that he wants his legacy to include introducing more diversity into F1 on the track, within its driving teams and in the stands.
“I want to have people say I was a part of shifting that,” Hamilton said. “That means getting involved in go-karting. It is so expensive in go-karts now.”
The cost of learning the trade in junior motor sports is astronomical, leaving it out of reach for most minority youths that aspire to reach the F1 level someday.
“My dad told me he spent £20,000 ($25,437 USD) in the first year I raced, but today, to do a professional season of go-karts is $200,000-300,000 (USD). I want to be a part of shifting that,” Hamilton explained.
“Also, to shift the diversity because there is the most minimal diversity and I want to be a part of changing that working with F1 and [governing body] the FIA.”
Like minority athletes around the globe, Hamilton wonders why there is no major call for more inclusion from those who operate major sports leagues, team owners and the media.
“I don't know why there aren't more mechanics or engineers, or even [people] in the media, coming through with more diversity,” he said.
Hamilton, whose victory in Canada was his fifth this season, finished second behind Ferrari’s Sebastian Vettel. However, Vettel was penalized five seconds for a driving violation that almost pushed Hamilton into a wall midway through the race. Hamilton finished within two seconds of Vettel, making him the winner.
Mercedes has won all seven F1 races this year, with Hamilton taking five and teammate Valtteri Bottas two.
While his father introduced him to racing and managed the early years of his career, he and Hamilton had “a professional split” and they remained estranged until recently.
A champion in a sport built on fastest times down to the hundredths of a second, Hamilton said time has brought them back together.
“The relationship's fantastic now. It wasn't always great, but that happens in families,” Hamilton said.
He called his father, “the greatest man I know,” adding that he celebrated the first Christmas with his whole family in a number of years.
“As you get older, you realize how precious time is. I have friends who don't have their dads any more or who didn't speak to them in 20-30 years and I don't want that to happen,” Hamilton said.
In fact, he and his father “were out partying until the early hours for his birthday in London the other day.”
“Sometimes it just takes time to grow and come back in relationships.”
A new Steward of racing
David Steward, a founder and chairman of World Wide Technologies, announced in April an agreement with Gateway Motor Sports on a long-term naming rights agreement.
The racing facility in Madison, Illinois is now named World Wide Technology Raceway at Gateway and WWT is also the official technology partner of the track. It will use the venue “to advance development programs for the company and its community outreach initiatives,” according to WWT.
“WWT and the Steward family are blessed and honored to align ourselves with (Gateway owner and CEO) Curtis Francois, his family and the team at World Wide Technology Raceway,” Steward said during a press conference announcing the agreement.
“Given our shared vision and values, we knew we had a perfect opportunity to better serve the entire community. Under Francois’ tremendous leadership, we look forward to creating a meaningful and lasting impact for the region in the years ahead.”
WWT already serves as technology and analytics partner of Richard Petty Motorsports (RPM) and is primary sponsor of the No. 43 Chevrolet Camaro ZL1 team. The car is guided by a black driver, Darrell “Bubba” Wallace Jr.
Upon being selected as a Petty driver, Wallace said the NASCAR Hall of Famer gave him some sage advice.
“Richard Petty told me before climbing in, no need to be a hero,” Wallace told the Charlotte Observer.
“No need to overstep anything that you’re doing. I’m here for a reason, and I’m here because I’ve proved my point, so just go out there and do what you do.”
Petty told Bleacher Report that Wallace “can be the next star in our sport.”
“He has as much talent off the track in dealing with the media and sponsors as he does on it. He’s going to be a special one.”
Petty also said in 2017 that any of his employees who did not stand for the national anthem or protest during it would be fired immediately.
In an interview with USA TODAY, Wallace, the first full-time black driver on the NASCAR circuit since Wendell Scott in 1971, said he ignores the Confederate flags being displayed at many races.
“The only flags that I see [are] green, white, the checkered, sometimes the black flag, which is never good, and sometimes the yellow flag,” he said.
He once told fans on Twitter to “embrace” the fact that he is “the black driver.”
“[For the media], their headline is ‘black driver’, ‘African-American driver’, and fans are getting tired of it. So, I was letting them know – I wouldn’t say I’m tired of it, but I’ve accepted it,” he said in another Twitter post.
“I know that every article that you pull up is gonna start with that. Embrace it, [and] carry on about your day. No need to waste 20 seconds of your life where you’re responding ‘Oh, this is annoying. He doesn’t need to be labeled.’ I’m gonna be labeled, it’s gonna happen; it’s all part of it. So just enjoy it, sit back, embrace it; enjoy it.”
Wallace, a graduate of NASCAR’s minority development program, is racing in the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series.
Last year before the Daytona 500, Wallace received encouragement from F1 champion Hamilton and MLB Hall of Famer Hank Aaron. He would finish second in the race, the highest finish in history for a black driver in that race.
Unfortunately, the remainder of 2018 was not kind to Wallace. He only placed in the Top 10 two more times and finished a disappointing 28th in the final point standings.
While 2019 has not brought Wallace much fortune either, he did win the second stage of the Monster Energy Open and then finished fifth in the All-Star Race that followed on May 18 at Charlotte Motor Raceway.
During his NASCAR Cup career that has spanned more than eight years, Wallace is still in search of his first victory. He has posted 38 top 10 finishes and earned three pole positions with the respective fastest qualifying times.
Wallace has also competed in the NASCAR Gander Truck Series, and has returned to that circuit occasionally. In 48 races over five seasons, Wallace took six checkered flags and posted 28 top 10 finishes. He also won pole position three times.
The Reid Roundup
I’ll start with a prayer and best wishes to “Marvelous” Melvin Moore as he prepares for a hospital procedure. His skill and artistic talent have helped The American become one of America’s most beautiful weekly newspapers and he has many layout and design awards to prove it. Ask him about “Naked Rock Fight” next time you see him … With a Tuesday deadline, I have no idea as I write these words if the St. Louis Blues won Game 7 of the Stanley Cup Finals on Wednesday night in Boston or if the wait for an NHL championship will stretch into its 53rd year. Unfortunately, my gut says The Cup is now in Boston … On Sunday morning, the St. Louis Post-Dispatch website errantly posted Blues owner Tom Stillman’s letter celebrating a Blues Stanley Cup victory and he mentions the upcoming parade down Market Street. There were also congratulatory ads from several businesses. If the Blues did indeed lose Game 7, the P-D is facing incredible scorn and will always be blamed for “cursing” the fantasy run for the title … With Golden State prevailing 106-105 in Toronto on Monday night, that same gut tells me the NBA Finals series will go to seven games – and the Raptors will be champions … Kevin Durant’s career will be on hold for months following surgery on his Achilles. My guess is that he opts to stay with the Warriors, cashes checks for a total of $32 million, makes a late-season comeback during the 2020 NBA Playoffs and then becomes a free agent … The St. Louis Cardinals are in a stretch of the season where 33 of the next 36 games are against teams at or below .500. In five weeks, we’ll know what this team is really about. Monday’s win against the Miami Marlins lifted the Redbirds back to .500. Whoopee … Pitcher Adam Wainwright is on the IL with strained quad. Who would have thought he’d miss games with an injury? ... Quarterback, troubled soul and former Heisman Trophy winner Johnny Manziel hopes to play with the XFL Houston franchise. Good or bad, he’d be worth seeing play when Houston comes to play St. Louis in The Dome … Bubba Wallace was a 1,000-1 shot to win the NASCAR race at Michigan last weekend…
Alvin A. Reid was honored as the 2017 “Best Sports Columnist – Weeklies” in the Missouri Press Association’s Better Newspaper Contest and is a New York Times contributor. He is a panelist on the Nine Network program, Donnybrook, a weekly contributor to “The Charlie Tuna Show” on KFNS and appears monthly on “The Dave Glover Show” on 97.1 Talk.” His Twitter handle is @aareid1.