Lewis Hamilton on increasing diversity in Formula One racing

Formula One racing roared into Austin, Texas, this weekend. One fan, Vladimir Ayala, described its appeal: “It’s the rush of adrenaline. It is the pumping in your heart. You’re like, yes!”

Formula One dates back to 1950. It’s equal parts speed, triumph and danger, up to 230 miles an hour, usually on tracks like the Circuit of the Americas in Austin, where later today they’ll race 56 laps.

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Correspondent Kristine Johnson asked British driver Lewis Hamilton, “What is the draw?”

“We’re all fighting for glory, or fighting for chasing time and perfection,” he replied. “There’s crashes, there’s carnage, there’s crazy emotions.”

Hamilton is this era’s king, with the most wins of all time. He’s tied for the most championships, at seven.

He showed Johnson how an F1 race car’s steering wheel is more like a game console: “This is how we control the engine, there’s multiple different settings for different power modes.”

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“You’re keeping track of all of this information, you’re driving over 200 miles per hour, and you’re like thisclose to your opponent?”

“Yeah. Yeah. There’s a lot going on!” Hamilton said. “It is kind of crazy. I think the great thing about our sport is that you really, really go into a different place. You activate a different part of the brain when the visor comes down.”

2022 has been disappointing for Hamilton, with no wins so far. But he’s become known for more than what he does on the track. He stands out for his sense of fashion, appearing on the cover of Vanity Fair. More significantly, he’s the only Black driver to ever race in F1 – and he’s been outspoken about increasing diversity in the sport.

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Mercedes’ British driver Lewis Hamilton prepares to take part in the third practice session ahead of the Formula One Japanese Grand Prix at Suzuka, Mie prefecture on October 8, 2022.

TOSHIFUMI KITAMURA/AFP via Getty Images


“When I was a kid, me and my family were watching this sport,” he said. “And we didn’t see anyone like us. But we thought that maybe we’ll get there and we’ll be able to change that.”

Johnson asked, “Did you face discrimination when you first came into the sport?”

“Yeah, well, I mean, through my whole life experience in England, I was told a lot to go back to my own country, and there was a lot of racial abuse, both in school but also at the racetrack. And my responsibility here is to be that thorn in the backside of any of those that are complicit, who are not holding themselves accountable, who are not doing the work.”

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Lewis Hamilton is seen during a practice session ahead of the F1 Grand Prix of Belgium, at the Circuit de Spa-Francorchamps, August 26, 2022 in SPA, Belgium.

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Formula One races are held across the globe. But F1 is just beginning to pick up speed in the US, where Austin and Miami host races. While Europeans followed F1, Americans were traditionally fans of Indy and NASCAR.

Formula One CEO Stefano Domenicali has worked to increase the sport’s appeal: “Maybe in the past there was just this attitude, been maybe too much arrogant to say, ‘This is Formula One, this is it, take it or leave it.'”

He says F1 is reaching out to fans by personalizing its drivers, such as on “Drive to Survive,” a huge hit on Netflix.

But maybe Americans haven’t been so much into Formula One because there are no American drivers.

Logan Sargeant is 21 years old and races on the F2 circuit, one notch below Formula One. He’s the only US driver on the tour, but to get there he had to move from his native Florida to London. “I’ve spent my whole life in Europe, sort of since I was 12 years old, sort of chasing this dream,” he said.

His fans are hoping he could move to Formula One as early as next year.

Johnson asked, “Have you thought about that moment when you’re going to be able to race in America?”

“You know, as an American kid, like, this is a dream,” Sargeant replied. “If you told me that when I was six years old, you know, beginning to race, I would tell you you’re crazy.”

He Johnson showed his car, which is designed to be driven from a nearly horizontal position. “You’re pretty laid out, to be honest,” he said. “We’ll have a seat made which fits our body perfectly to hold us even tighter in the car.”

“Talk about custom-made!”

“Yeah, it’s fit for perfection.”

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Logan Sargeant shows match Kristine Johnson the seat of an F1 race car.

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Formula One is a man’s world. Only two women have ever started an F1 race. But on a new tour, the W Series, all drivers are women, including the only American, Chloe Chambers.

Chambers, who just graduated from high school in June, is 18 years old, though racing was clearly in her blood from an early age. At age eight she was racing go-karts, winning national titles. She now races for the Jenner team (as in Caitlyn Jenner).

As to why there aren’t more women like her in racing, she told Johnson, “It’s not a matter of women not having enough talent; it’s just not having enough experience, and that just simply comes from not having enough funding.”

W Series Testing At The Barcelona-Catalunya Circuit
Chloe Chambers is pictured during the W Series testing at the Barcelona-Catalunya Circuit, in Barcelona, ​​March 3, 2022.

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To underscore that point: the W Series recently canceled its last three races of the year (including Austin), because an investor pulled out. They’re hoping to get back on track next year.

But also next year, sources confirmed to “Sunday Morning” that F1 will launch a series featuring young women drivers.

Johnson asked Chambers, “What’s your goal?”

“My goal ever since I started racing is Formula One,” she replied.

“We are going to interview Lewis Hamilton. Are you ready to go up against him?”

“I would totally be up for going against Lewis Hamilton, yes!” Chambers said.

A challenge we had to run by the man himself.

Hamilton’s response? “I love that!”

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The 2022 Aramco United States Grand Prix at Circuit of the Americas in Austin, Texas, will be held Sunday, October 23.

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Story produced by Alan Golds. Editor: Joseph Frandino.

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