Lewis Hamilton has not only been setting an example on the track but even off it. The 6-time world champion has used his popularity to good effect. He has been championing the fight against racism in F1. Recently, after the George Floyd case, Hamilton was one of the first sporting superstars to come out on social media and speak out against racism. He also called out the F1 paddock for their silence on the matter. Thereafter, Lewis’ fellow drivers came out on social media and addressed the issue.
Being the only black driver in F1 hasn’t been easy for Lewis. He has faced his own set of racist abuse in the past.
The most Infamous racist abuse against Lewis took place in 2008. During the pre-season testing at the Circuit de Barcelona- Catalunya in Spain, Lewis was subjected to abuse by Spanish spectators. The abusers colored their faces black, wore wigs and T-shirts emblazoned with the words ‘Hamilton’s family.’ They also booed the then McLaren driver and called him ‘black s*it.’
Thereafter, the FIA warned Spanish authorities. They also launched a campaign against racism called ‘Race Against Racism.’ Additionally, FIA issued a statement saying, “Discrimination and prejudice can have no place in sport or society. Everyone in our sport will join us in condemning these abusive and hateful comments.”
However, that wasn’t the end of it. Hamilton was yet again the target by Spanish fans several months later. Shortly before the Brazilian Grand Prix. This time the abuse came on a website. One owned by a Spanish branch of TBWA which is an international advertising agency. The site was soon closed following comments that referred to Lewis Hamilton as a ‘half-breed.’ The website was named ‘pinchalaruedadeHamilton’ which translates to ‘burst Hamilton’s tires.’ The said website also featured an image of Interlagos and allowed users to leave nails, pins, or porcupines on the track to puncture Lewis’ car.
The reason for all this hate among Spanish fans for Lewis stems from the previous season. In the 2007 season, Fernando Alonso joined McLaren and partnered Lewis. Alonso had only just won the driver’s championship but Lewis managed to steal his thunder on the track. A seemingly disgruntled Alonso left the team after that season.