Lewis Hamilton has suggested a lack of diversity at Ferrari played a key role in him rejecting the chance to join the famous Italian manufacturer to finish his Formula One career with them.
Hamilton’s success in F1, which has seen him equal Michael Schumacher’s seven world championship titles this season with three races to spare, has seen talk of a swan-song at Ferrari ever-present.
But the 35-year-old, who is yet to sign a new £40million-a-year deal with Mercedes, has highlighted the importance of a diverse team environment and hinted that, while it was his ‘dream’ to drive for them, Ferrari’s values do not ‘align’ to his own.
Lewis Hamiton, seen wearing an ‘Arrest the cops who killed Breonna Taylor’ t-shirt at the Tuscan Grand Prix, has suggested a move to Ferrari failed as their values ‘do not align’
Hamilton has long been fighting for more diversity in the sport, and to try and combat racism
Speaking on why he never made a move to Ferrari he commented on the team’s diversity
‘I’ve always been positive about Ferrari. I watched Michael (Schumacher) win there. I’ve always been a Ferrari fan,’ he told GQ magazine.
‘I remember one of the first cars I ever bought was a Ferrari. And I think it’s a hugely iconic team and brand, particularly.
‘I think the team has, in my period of time… There have been things I’ve seen that I don’t necessarily feel mirror my values and my approach. However, it is a team that every driver, I think, has dreamed of what it would be like to sit in the red cockpit.
‘No disrespect to them, but when I stop I want to work with Mercedes in helping them be even better in the outside world. You know, they’ll always have beautiful cars, but how can we be a more diverse industry?’
The 2020 drivers’ champion announced in June that he was to set up the Hamilton Commission with the aim of increasing diversity in motorsport.
He stated that the Commission’s aim is ‘to engage more young people from black backgrounds with science, technology, engineering and maths (STEM) subjects’.
Hamilton, the only black driver ever in Formula 1 from the 750 that have competed since the sport began, has been vocal on diversifying the sport since the death of the African-American man George Floyd in police custody in Minneapolis.
Floyd’s death lead to major global demonstrations under the slogan ‘Black Lives Matter’.
He called out fellow drivers for not speaking out on racism following Floyd’s death and challenged his peers to be better as he took on authorities and rival teams.
Hamilton (middle, front) has taken a knee before races as part of the Black Lives Matter movement – but seven drivers have continued to elect to stand, showing a divided grid
Mercedes painted their cars black, not silver, this season as part of their push for diversity
Hamilton has been front and centre of drivers taking a knee before races, only for a split to emerge with seven going against the grain and electing to stand.
Kevin Magnuessen, Max Verstappen, Kimi Raikkonen, Charles Leclerc, Antonio Giovinazzi, Carlos Sainz and Daniil Kvyat have all elected to stand at one stage this season.
Hamilton, who has 21 million Instagram followers, wore a T-shirt at the Tuscan Grand Prix in Mugello back in September which read ‘Arrest the cops who killed Breonna Taylor’ – referring to the shooting of a black woman in her home in the United States in March.
‘Lots of rules have been written for me over the years but that hasn’t stopped me,’ said Hamilton, who wrote on social media that he was ‘sad but not surprised’ at news at the time that none of the police involved in the shooting had been charged with murder.
He later added: ‘I have not spoken to the FIA. What was really positive was the support I got from the fans. I don’t regret a single moment of it.’
Hamilton spoke to Ferrari chairman John Elkann in 2019 but a move failed to materialise
The seven-time world champion has opened up on Ferrari ahead of the Bahrain Grand Prix
His determination to see tangible change on and off the track when it comes to diversity has seen Mercedes make real pledges to back their No 1 driver.
They painted their cars black for the 2020 season, instead of their typical silver livery. It was revealed as an indicator of their commitment to increased diversity and inclusion.
It was ‘an important statement we are willing to change and improve as a business’ in Hamilton’s eyes.
Exploring diversity further Mercedes admitted ‘just three per cent of our workforce identify as belonging to minority ethnic groups and only 12 per cent of our employees are women’.
Mercedes pledged to increase both of those figures and Hamilton has urged all teams to match that commitment in their own garages.
In response to Hamilton’s rallying cary, Ferrari chairman John Elkann told Gazzetta dello Sport that they were the only company in Italy operating with ‘the Equal Salary certification for equal pay for women and men with the same qualifications and duties.’
Hamilton’s win in Turkey last time out saw him equal Michael Schumacher’s seven world titles
Elkann went on to call him an ‘exceptional driver’, again talking up the possibility of Hamilton ending his racing career in Ferrari red with a new Mercedes contract still to be signed.
But addressing the media ahead of the Bahrain Grand Prix, Hamilton admitted he was never close, despite a meeting with Elkann in 2019, to leaving.
‘I think it’s only right as drivers, as people, when you’re looking at your next phase and committing to the next stage of your life you have to analyse what your options are and make sure you do your due diligence and have the pros and cons,’ he said.
‘I don’t know whether our values are aligned and timing… it just wasn’t meant to be.’
The 2020 season has three races remaining – two in Bahrain and the final round in Abu Dhabi.