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Opinion

F1's generation-defining moment

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Roar Guru
9th July, 2020
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Images in sport have captured such powerful moments since the dawn of the camera, whether of victory or defeat, celebration or anguish. A single shot can harbour so many emotions that carry great significance.

Then you have the images in sport that are generation-defining statements about society, often screaming out for a change to the status quo. Think Nicky Winmar, Colin Kaepernick or Adam Goodes.

What they all have in common with their iconic stills is their stand against racism, and upon Formula One’s start to their 2020 season at the Austrian Grand Prix six-time world champion Lewis Hamilton, wearing a T-shirt with ‘black lives matter’ across his chest, and his fellow drivers had their moment and took that same stand.

Yes, only 14 of the 20 drivers took a knee during the pre-race ceremony. The fact that the others didn’t has promoted the idea that not all of them are united on this matter. However, as Renault driver Daniel Ricciardo explained, “None of us are anti this, so we all support this [ending racism].

“I just think there was a little bit of difficulty with some drivers and their nationality and what something like taking a knee would represent.”

Hamilton expressed how grateful he was for those drivers that did kneel with him, though had no issue with the individuals that did not.

“I think it’s still a really powerful message, but ultimately whether or not you kneel or do not kneel, that’s not going to change the world. And it’s a much bigger issue across the world,” the six-time world champion said.

Regardless, all the drivers were visible in their black T-shirts reading ‘end racism’, which was also emblazoned on the side of the pit building at the Red Bull Ring, as was viewed by millions across the globe via the TV broadcast.

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Racism is not political; it is a societal cancer that has plagued generations of people who’ve lived oppressed lives or as outcasts deprived of even basic human rights, as is the case in the spotlight with the African American community. Sport is the perfect vessel to spread the message of ending this injustice.

So Formula One – which in the words of Hamilton himself has long been a white-dominated sport as well one that is almost exclusively accessible to the elite – embracing their We Race As One initiative and fully supporting their greatest ambassador in the six-time world champion can only be seen as a positive.

After the time spent in isolation amid the global pandemic and without any racing, Formula One getting behind this movement has demonstrated the transformation of a once conservative body into a progressive and pioneering organisation seeking to shape a more positive and united future for all people, just as it is in a sporting sense by seeking to become more sustainable and create a closer competition.

Defining the future is also something that Hamilton’s Mercedes team have not shied away from either, having changed the livery of their Formula One car and their driver overalls to black. This is of course an organisation with a chequered past when it comes to human rights and equality.

“We wish to use our voice and our global platform to speak up for respect and equality. 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,” said Mercedes team boss Toto Wolff.

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As well as a gripping race won by Valtteri Bottas for Mercedes, what Formula One achieved at the Austrian Grand Prix was a generation-defining moment that will forever show that they’ve taken a stand against racism and are working to promoting diversity and inclusivity to educate a new generation of fans to race as one.