Formula 1 is one of the most prestigious motorsport classes currently around, its rich history dates back to 1950 with the first race being held in May 1950 at the Silverstone circuit. It has attracted names like Ferrari, Mclaren, Williams, Mercedes and many more. Within motorsport, Formula 1 is the highest class that an aspiring driver can aim for and commonly it is held as a lifelong dream for young and keen drivers.
As a child, I remember sitting down every Sunday afternoon with my family to watch the races, and it’s something I still love to do now. Unfortunately with the worldwide pandemic in 2020, Formula 1 and the entire motorsport industry had to put itself on hold and adapt to the ever-changing circumstances. During the time that the sport was unable to occur, many of the drivers resorted to online gaming. Notably, Mclaren driver Lando Norris who took part in Twitch’s stream aid raising money for Coronavirus charities, the event in total raised $2.7 million. When the sport finally resumed in July, over 4 months later than originally planned it was an exciting prospect as this brought back some sense of normality. However, in the midst of the pandemic, just before the sport resumed, a social shift occurred. This being the global recognition of the Black Lives Matter movement after the death of George Floyd. The effects of this were not just felt in the US but across the world, and sport was not immune. As the only Black racing driver in the paddock, Lewis Hamilton had already brought attention to the lack of diversity within F1 in regards to race and gender. The movement took centre stage when the racing resumed.
As an organisation Formula 1 put forward the “We Race as One” initiative in late June 2020 to recognize the large disparity in the sport. Many of the drivers publicly spoke out and supported the issue by taking the knee as a stance of solidarity before the races. In an official statement, F1 said that “we believe we must return with added purpose and determination to tackle the major issues that we as a sport, but also society, are facing.” The statement sent a message to those who watched the sport and reinforced the explicit proclamation that there was no space in the sport for racism and it would not be tolerated by the teams or the organisation itself. Other initiatives that have been created within the sphere of the motorsport world is the Girls On Track initiative. This was founded in 2019 with the collaboration of Susie Wolff, who was a former professional racing driver and current team principal of Formula E team Venturi Racing. Her own “Dare to be different” foundation aims to give as many women and girls the opportunity to experience the world of motorsport, and show them that there is a place for them in the industry. The Girls On Track initiative in recent months have hosted an array of online workshop events. These events are free to attend and attempt to show participants how they can achieve their dreams within the industry. They have also hosted track days where a select few female racing drivers are able to gain experience. The four finalists were also invited to compete to win a contract in Formula 4, funded by the Ferrari Driver academy.
Diversity in motorsport is also explored by the podcast Driven By Diversity, hosted by Ariana Bravo and Steph Turner who both have roles in the motorsport world. The podcast invites individuals that are prominent in the motorsport world who originate from backgrounds that are underrepresented. This gives them a platform to talk about their own journeys and progression within the industry with the hope of inspiring more diversity and equality. Notable guests include Nic Hamilton, younger brother to Lewis Hamilton, Karun Chandhok, Sky Sports Presenter, and professional female racing driver Naomi Schiff.
While the work to create an equal and diverse motorsport industry is far from over, we understand that it is still a highly unequal environment, however, the steps that have been taken to change this are incredibly encouraging. Moreover, the movement towards a more equal and fair industry sets a promising precedent for the future generations of aspiring drivers.