In July 2021, seven-time World Formula 1 champion Sir Lewis Hamilton, MBE, delivered on a commitment he made back in 2020, with the publication of the report from The Hamilton Commission.
2020 was the year that the murder of George Floyd sparked a fire of protest around the world. Though the murder of African Americans at the hands of the police may have been the initial inspiration, Black Lives Matter morphed into something much larger.
The fire and passion of those BLM protests shone a light on racial inequality and institutional racism in all walks of life. When Lewis Hamilton chose to make a gesture of solidarity after races, he was also drawing attention to the lack of Black people within his own sport, something that senior officials didn’t want to acknowledge or address.
Hamilton was frustrated, that despite his years of high-profile success in the sport, so few people in the industry looked like him.
“There are seven F1 teams in the UK, and over 4,000 companies,” said Hamilton. “That’s a lot of jobs, from drivers to engineers, managers to accountants. There are suppliers and sponsors who hire thousands of people a year. If there are so many jobs, and so many different paths in this industry, why do we see so few Black people?
The answer is, our industry is set-up to attract a certain type of person, from a certain background and a certain economic status. It seems as if our industry says “no, not you”. And in our wider society it seems that, all too often, kids like me get told they’re not good enough, don’t get to see their potential, don’t think they can achieve their dreams.”
So, Hamilton took it upon himself to create his own commission to tackle the issues he was highlighting.
The Hamilton Commission
The Commission had been in development since December 2019 but publicly launched in June 2020 to coincide with the heightened media and public interest in the Black Lives Matter movement, and greater scrutiny of race inequality in society.
The Hamilton Commission was co-chaired by Hamilton and Dr Hayaatun Sillem CBE, Chief Executive of the Royal Academy of Engineering. The Board of Commissioners was an independent group made up of 14 experts and industry leaders from within the UK, including ARE’s own Chief Executive Jeremy Crook OBE, who were selected to represent a wide range of expertise spanning critical areas of influence including motorsport, engineering, schools, community and youth groups.
The purpose of the Commission was to understand the barriers facing Black students at every step of their educational journey and develop clear recommendations with tangible steps that they hoped would encourage more of the Black community to pursue a career in STEM.
“ BTEG’s goal is to see black people represented in every sector and at every level. Motorsport is high profile and offers fantastic opportunities in engineering, science and technology and we have no doubt there are talented young black people who would love the chance to work in this exciting sector.”Jeremy Crook OBE, Chief Executive ARE
“The talent pipeline to motorsport careers involves schools, colleges, universities, access to quality careers guidance and crucially motorsport employers. We want to see a clear road map for black children and young people to motorsport careers and any barriers to change identified and removed through the Commission’s work.”
While the report focuses on motorsport, it uses the industry as a lens through which to explore institutional issues across our society that prevent Black youth from achieving their highest potential. These can range from how our schools place Black students into lower ability groups to why they hire so few Black teachers. It is clear these patterns of discrimination against Black students begin at a young age and can follow them to their future workplaces.
When looking at the fine detail of the report, Jeremy Crook was struck by a number of its findings.
- The lack of visible role models in motorsport companies
- The challenge of the geographical mismatch is significant, ie where motorsport companies are based in relation to Black communities in large cities such London, Birmingham and Manchester.
- 2019 A level data shows just 2% of Black student cohort achieved an A* grade at physics A Level, compared with 8% of their White British counterparts
- Black Engineering graduates are significantly less likely to have progressed into engineering roles (at 35%) than their White engineering counterparts (at 57%). Black Engineering graduates are twice as likely to be unemployed (14%) than their white counterparts.
The report contains ten recommendations, all based in evidence, that the Commission believes will have a long lasting and positive impact on the representation of Black people in Formula 1 and the wider motorsport sector and which will support the development of more inclusivity. In it, there are three key strands of action – Support and Empowerment; Accountability and Measurement and Inspiration and Engagement.
The recommendations include
- that Formula 1 teams and other motorsport businesses broaden access to motorsport by expanding the apprenticeships provision to include higher apprenticeships and degree apprenticeships as an alternate pathway into the sector, as well as availability to paid work placement and work experience schemes.
- the creation of targeted support programmes for Black students in post-16 education to enable greater progression into Higher Education courses and work-based training opportunities linked to the motorsport sector.
- the creation of scholarship programmes to enable Black graduates from degrees in engineering and allied subjects to progress into specialist motorsport roles.
Reflecting on the work and the outcomes of the Hamilton Commission, Jeremy Crook is very positive.