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Hamilton on ‘awkward’ contract timing & driving change

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Sky Sports exclusive: Hamilton on why he feels “a little bit awkward” discussing a contract amid a pandemic and why education and discussion are at the heart of improving diversity

By James Galloway

Last Updated: 06/08/20 8:56pm

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Lewis Hamilton has called on the government to ensure children learn about diversity at school

Lewis Hamilton has called on the government to ensure children learn about diversity at school

Lewis Hamilton says he fully expects to agree a contract to stay at Mercedes but admits he feels “awkward” about discussing a new F1 deal at a time when people are facing hardship due to the coronavirus pandemic.

In an exclusive interview with Sky Sports, F1’s six-time champion also spoke at length about the passion and experiences that drive him to take a leading role in the fight against racism – and why the government must ensure diversity is taught more widely in schools.

Hamilton was speaking to Sky F1’s Karun Chandhok on Thursday in the Silverstone paddock in a wide-ranging discussion at the launch of Puma’s new Mercedes-AMG Petronas F1 Team Speedcat Pro.

Watch the full interview in the race-day show at the 70th Anniversary GP on Sunday from 12.30pm on Sky Sports F1 and Sky Sports Main Event.

Hamilton on diversity: School curriculum needs to be improved

Hamilton has been a leading and powerful voice on the Black Lives Matter movement and diversity topics in recent months, both in and outside Formula 1.

“I want to just encourage people to speak out, bring it up and start a conversation about things that perhaps are uncomfortable,” he explained.

In order to widen opportunities for people from more diverse backgrounds to get involved in motorsport, Hamilton has launched a commission in his own name and has spoken of his passion for improving education.

“We are in a time where we can’t just keep talking about it, we need to start putting things in place,” said the world champion.

“The thing is, it’s not that easy to fix. So if any adult today is ‘it’s not about me, it’s down to the youngsters today’ it’s actually incorrect. The parents, us, the older generation now need to educate ourselves so we can then try to educate and pass it down to the kids.”

Hamilton, who has spoken in the past about the racial abuse he suffered as a junior karter starting out in motorsport, said of the recent global events: “The whole experience has just brought up a lot of these old emotions and I really feel and emphasise for those out there from all different backgrounds that have experienced and felt like they couldn’t say anything, whether it’s in your workforce, whether it’s at school, whether it’s just hanging with your friends.”

The Briton expressed his pride at the steps Mercedes, who are running a black car in 2020, have already taken to show their support and improve their own understanding and action around diversity.

“These past couple of weeks they’ve found a company that is doing diversity and inclusion training,” revealed Hamilton. “So I went and had a session with them and it was incredible. I’m open to learning, absolutely – I’m not perfect – and so just learning what is right and what is… and I feel kind of the whole of society, we’re so behind.

“The things that people were saying when I was at school, about so many different races, you look back and you’re like ‘oh my god, that was terrible back then’. But it is still evidently there today and so how can we change it?”

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Lewis Hamilton says he wants to stay at Mercedes despite having not yet agreed a new contract

Lewis Hamilton says he wants to stay at Mercedes despite having not yet agreed a new contract

Hamilton on his next F1 contract

The 35-year-old was speaking on the day that Mercedes announced a new one-year deal for Valtteri Bottas, Hamilton’s team-mate since 2017.

The confirmation of Bottas’ stay inevitably turned focus onto Hamilton’s future, with the Englishman out of contract at the end of the year. The six-time champion is expected to sign his own deal for 2021 and beyond, but formal discussions are not underway yet.

Asked when he’ll be joining Bottas in signing a deal, Hamilton said: “I really want to. I’m sure Toto’s probably getting a little bit anxious because I haven’t been too forward with it – like ‘let’s get it done, now!’

“I don’t know, I’m just a very chilled individual. I think particularly in a time where people are losing their jobs, I generally honestly feel a little bit awkward with sitting down and talking about numbers and talking about a new contract when there are people out there who are not eating, there are people out there who are starving, there are people out there who have lost their jobs during this pandemic.

“So, I don’t know, I feel a little bit awkward with it, that’s why I’ve kind of stepped back a little bit. But, of course, I will do at some stage. But it’s awkward – I’m like ‘how long can I leave it until it’s maybe a little bit more normal, things maybe get a little bit better?’

“But I am absolutely 100 per cent committed to my team. I’m loyal as ever and I don’t lie, so it’s not like I’m communicating with someone else – I don’t want to be anywhere else.”

Hamilton has joined stellar success since joining Mercedes in 2013 and added: “I love what we are doing in terms of our competitiveness and that journey, but also this new journey that everybody has embraced.

“You see the team taking a knee, you see the Formula E team embracing it too. I hope that we can be a beacon of light to hopefully other teams encouraging them that they could also be a part of this change and it’s not about the competition, it’s actually about change for the future.”

On the weekend F1 marks the 70th anniversary of the sport, Hamilton is moving ever closer to becoming the most successful driver of all time.

The Briton is just four wins behind Michael Schumacher’s tally of 91 victories and can equal the German great’s record 155 podiums at Silverstone this weekend. Hamilton’s 30-point championship lead over Bottas, meanwhile, keeps him on course to become just the second driver after Schumacher to win seven drivers’ titles.

Reflecting on his extraordinary achievements so far in his 14th season at the top level, Hamilton said: “I think we [he and his family] truly believed we could get to Formula 1 – of course we didn’t know whether it was going to happen – but I could never had say to you I was going to have six world titles and be fighting against someone I watched win all those titles record-wise.

“It’s above and beyond that [what he could have expected].

“Then, even more so, to be living in a moment where we are in a pandemic and then we have the Black Lives Matter movement and be seen as one of the many, many voices out there.

“I didn’t realise that when I get to 35, this would be my path or my journey, but I’m grateful for it and trying to do the best I can with it, at the same time enjoying the driving and enjoying the competition.”

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