Lewis Hamilton the 7 times F1 champion began his Formula One career obsessed with racing. He almost achieved what was considered impossible by winning the driver’s championship in his rookie season with McLaren. Hamilton did achieve the title the following year with the British based racing marque.
In 2017 Lewis decided to make a significant life change and become a vegan. Despite criticism from dog lovers, he revealed his dog Roscoe was also on a vegan diet. Then in 2018 he was ‘executive producer’ on a film promoting veganism by ‘advising’ on a film that followed a UFC fighter’s transformation from meat eating to a plant based food regime.
Climate change was next on the non-F1 agenda for Hamilton. He quickly received heavy criticism for ‘lecturing’ others on the damage being caused to the planet by Carbon emissions as his F1 sport was one of the less green global events held annually.
There were calls for Lewis to stand by his green credentials and quit the sport immediately.
One of the best UK sports writers, Martin Samuel observed, “So Hamilton has a choice, and it isn’t about beef versus beetroot. If he announced this season was it, and he was ending his participation in motor sport with its reckless consumption and pollution of the planet’s resources, that would be a very admirable stand.”
Then of course Lewis joined the quasi political Black Lives Matter movement following the death by American police of black man George Floyd. The British driver attended a march in Hyde Park London wearing a scarf covering his face and seen making the Black Power salute.
He further confronted other F1 drivers for failing to take the BLM issues seriously leading to a verbal exchange between him and Grand Prix Driver’s Association president Romain Grosjean.
Lewis had sought support from his fellow drivers to follow the BLM protest action and kneel before the national anthem for the 2020 Hungarian GP. 8 driver’s failed to follow his lead and he complained to the Sky Sports that Grosjean, “doesn’t think it’s important to do it.”
Lewis has recently been embroiled in various disputes with new FIA President Mohammed Ben Sulayem, primarily over his refusal to attend the mandatory FIA end of season gala in December 2021.
Mercedes then took up the cudgel on Hamilton’s behalf nigh on demanding Michael Massi the FIA race director be sacked.
Hamilton is currently refusing to comply with the FIA’s rule on wearing jewellery while in the racing car despite the fact the rule has been in place for over a decade – Hamilton believes Sulayem is making an example of him personally.
Sebastian Vettel has recently joined the climate cause and has repeatedly questioned F1’s decisions over this matter together with promoting LGBTQ+ rights.
When asked by GrandPrix247 whether F1 drivers were becoming too political, The FIA president was candid with his reply.
“Sadly, in a way yes. You try to separate sport from politics. We have it in our FIA status ‘neutrality’. But I think some people only see neutrality and governance when it suits them.
“For me, I come from that black or white world and it is very hard to do it. When it is governance, it has to be governance, when it is neutrality, it has to be neutrality. We are therefore for one reason and one reason only, and that is sports. Now you have to be political sometimes, but not really be a politician.
“Where do you have the balance? FIA should be careful not to be dragged into politics without forgetting our roots of motorsports.”
Having dragged its feet during the early days of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, F1 initially cancelled this years Russian GP. Only later when the sport’s administrators appreciate the global backlash against Russia’s attack on its neighbour was the contract for the future Russian GP’s also cancelled.
Having allowed the BLM political protest under the reign of Jean Todd, it appears the new president is determined to take F1 back to its apolitical heritage.
Under Max Mosley the Turkish promoters were initially fined $10m for referring to Cyprus as the “Northern republic of Turkey”.
It seems as though the new FIA president would like to return F1 to those days when the sport refused to take positions on political matters.
Sulayem singles out Hamilton and Better for criticism adding,
“Niki Lauda and Alain Prost only cared about driving. Now Vettel drives a rainbow bicycle and Lewis is passionate about human rights.”
“Everyone has the right to think. To me it’s about deciding whether we should impose our beliefs about something over the sport all the time.”
Fernando Alonso stated that driver’s salaries should not be part of the budget cap as the majority of their time is spent now promoting F1.
Well, it appears the drivers can’t have it both ways. If they are promoting the sport and there is a conflict between their personnel beliefs and F1’s apolitical mandate, the choice is simple.
Quit and fight for their individual opinions – or stay as part of the collective and tow the line of the hand that feeds them.