When Formula One returns to racing this weekend in Austria, it will do so in a world that has changed profoundly since the teams last gathered in Melbourne in early March for what was to have been the opening round of the 2020 championship (it was cancelled).
The COVID-19 pandemic and various tough actions taken by almost all countries saw movements restricted, and all motorsports were suspended. While that impacted racing teams, the manufacturers they represent as well as the sponsors greatly, there has also been another development which has become an almost global social issue.
Discrimination is not acceptable
In the past five weeks, the Black Lives Matter (BLM) movement has shone a searching light on how much we need new measures and actions in the fight against racism. In sports especially, discrimination of any form is not acceptable. The Mercedes-AMG Petronas F1 Team has spent the past weeks listening to the perspectives of its team members, to learn and to reflect on the team as it is today and how they want it to be in the future.
“It’s so important that we seize this moment and use it to educate ourselves whether you are an individual, brand or company to make real meaningful changes when it comes to ensuring equality and inclusivity. I have personally experienced racism in my life and seen my family and friends experience racism, and I am speaking from the heart when I appeal for change,” said Lewis Hamilton, who is the first and still the only black driver in F1. “When I spoke to Toto [Wolff] about my hopes for what we could achieve as a team, I said it was so important that we stand united.”
Looking inwards at itself, the team could see that there is a lack of diversity: just 3% of its workforce identify as belonging to minority ethnic groups and only 12% are women. “ This lack of diversity shows that we need to find new approaches to attract talent from many areas of society we do not currently reach. We know that our team will be stronger if we can attract talents from the broadest possible pool and we are committed to achieving this through positive action,” said Toto Wolff, Team Principal & CEO of the Mercedes-AMG Petronas F1 Team.
For the 2020 season, the team has therefore chosen to race in an all-black base livery as a public pledge to improve the diversity of the team. It is a clear statement of the team’s stand against racism and all forms of discrimination. The call to ‘End Racism’ will feature on the halo of both cars, and the united F1 initiative #WeRaceAsOne will be featured on the mirrors of the W11 racing car.
Diversity and Inclusion programme
“Before the end of this season, we will announce a Diversity and Inclusion programme that will include but not be limited to: continuing to listen to and raise the awareness of our team members; forensic analysis of our recruitment and development processes; collaboration with the sport’s key stakeholders to improve accessibility to our sport; and targeted education initiatives to encourage and support talented people from under-represented backgrounds who aspire to reach F1,” Wolff explained.
“We know that it will take time to build the right strategy, and consistent effort and investment year on year, and decade on decade, to make a measurable difference; our commitment to doing this is irreversible,” he declared.
At the highest levels of Daimler AG, which funds the team, there is also full support for its actions being taken. Markus Schaefer, Member of the Board of Management Daimler AG, Responsible for Group Research and Non-Executive Chairman of the Mercedes-AMG Petronas F1 Team said: “In recent weeks, events around the world have reinforced the importance of continuing to fight against racism and all forms of discrimination. At Mercedes, we know that the strength of our organisation lies in the diversity of our people, and we are proud to be able to use one of our most prominent global platforms to signal our commitment to this fundamental principle of our society and our business.”
Speaking up for respect and equality
Expanding on the subject, Wolff said: “Racism and discrimination have no place in our society, our sport or our team: this is a core belief at Mercedes. But having the right beliefs and the right mindset isn’t enough if we remain silent. We wish to use our voice and our global platform to speak up for respect and equality, and the Silver Arrow will race in black for the entire 2020 season to show our commitment to greater diversity within our team and our sport.”
“We will not shy away from our weaknesses in this area, nor from the progress we must still make; our livery is our public pledge to take positive action. We intend to find and attract the very best talents from the broadest possible range of backgrounds, and to create credible pathways for them to reach our sport, in order to build a stronger and more diverse team in the future. I would also like to use this opportunity to thank our parent company Mercedes-Benz and our family of team partners who have supported and encouraged this initiative,” he said.
Drivers will use their high profile
At the heart of the team’s commitment to fighting racism and discrimination are its high-profile drivers, and most prominently 6-time world champion Hamilton. He recently announced the formation of the Hamilton Commission, a research partnership with the Royal Academy of Engineering dedicated to exploring how motorsport can be used to engage more young people from black backgrounds with STEM subjects and ultimately employ them at Mercedes teams or in other engineering sectors. He and his partner, Valtteri Bottas, will race in black overalls for the 2020 season, with helmet designs adapted as well.
“I would like to say a huge thank you to Toto and the Mercedes Board for taking the time to listen, to talk, and to really understand my experiences and passion, and for making this important statement that we are willing to change and improve as a business. We want to build a legacy that goes beyond sport, and if we can be the leaders and can start building more diversity within our own business, it will send such a strong message and give others the confidence to begin a dialogue about how they can implement change,” he said.