Lewis Hamilton will thrive on the adversity of Formula One’s racism storm by becoming “unbeatable” at this weekend’s British Grand Prix, Mercedes team principal Toto Wolff has said.
In an interview with the PA news agency, Wolff also demanded the sport’s bosses, and rival teams join Mercedes in “putting your money where your mouth is” to combat racism.
The build-up to Hamilton’s home race has been overshadowed by the emergence of a racist slur used by triple world champion Nelson Piquet against the British driver.
Piquet, 69, has since apologised but claimed the offensive word was mistranslated.
But Wolff said: “Lewis thrives on adversity and when things are being thrown at him, that is when he becomes unbeatable.
“The racist comments that have been made is not something he would consider as from credible voices.
“On-track adversity drives him and off-track adversity drives him, too. But it is just a shame that we have been doing so much in the sport against racism and these things still come flying out, from people that are not part of the core group, but it is still disturbing for the sport.
“It is not good for Formula One to have these voices out there in the world. That is why he has taken a strong position. We have taken a strong position, and it’s just not on.”
On Thursday, Hamilton called for F1’s older voices to be silenced. In addition to Piquet’s racist slur, Sir Jackie Stewart, 83, last week called for Hamilton to “resign” following his underwhelming results this season, while Bernie Ecclestone, 91, said he would “take a bullet” for Russian president Vladimir Putin in a controversial interview on ITV’s Good Morning Britain.
“I have great respect for Bernie and what he has done for all of us,” said Wolff. “I would not be here if he didn’t endorse me when I was at Williams.
“But it is one thing to throw in a Bernie-type hand grenade, and another to make statements that are clearly not on anymore – whether they are racist or disrespectful or harmful when you consider what tragedies are happening in Ukraine.
“There is just a limit and a line that must not be crossed to generate headlines. We should not give people who have such views any platform. It should be silence.”
Wolff was speaking at a watch auction led by team sponsor IWC Schaffhausen to raise funds for Ignite – an initiative launched by Hamilton and Mercedes aimed at increasing diversity and inclusion in motor racing.
Wolff continued: “It was nice to see the drivers show some support for Lewis. Some of the teams have done, others not, but now it is time to really get it done.
“We cannot be working on it, we cannot be issuing nice press releases where we are working on more inclusion and more diversity.
“Put your money where your mouth is. That is what we have been doing. We have put more than $6million (£5m) into our Ignite foundation and this is what we expect from everybody else in the sport.
“We are privileged to play on such an incredible global platform – the number one sport in the world – where we really lack diversity. It is a white man’s sport and we are trying to change that but we need everybody’s support. We need F1’s support, we need the teams’ support.
“We are putting money into STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Maths) education in trying to attract under-represented groups into motor sport. We are doing it for what we love. It is our industry and others must follow suit.”
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