Lewis Hamilton has talked about some of the experiences he has had with racism throughout his life, starting from a very young age as one of the few people of colour in his school and suffering psychological abuse from teachers:
"Look, when I was at school, I was dyslexic and struggling like hell "and one of the only few Black kids in my school, being put in the lowest classes and never given a chance to progress or even helped to progress. Teachers were telling me, You’re never going to be nothing."
Hamilton remembers being around twelve years old and humming down the street when a father and son knocked him to the ground and attacked him, shouting at him to go back to his country:
"Go back to your country. I remember how terrifying it was. I really, really couldn’t understand it. Are they talking to me? I’m from here. What do they mean?"
The Mercedes driver recalls that as a child, driving go-karts was his way of feeling protected and self-confident because no one could see his skin tone through the helmet.
"I couldn’t be Superman, but that was like your cloak. When I got in the car, I put a helmet on, and I wasn’t seen any different. You can’t see my skin color. You just see me as a driver. And I was able to do things that others weren’t able to do. And it didn’t matter how big the other kids were, I could still beat them."
At the age of 13, the 37-year-old received a contract offer from McLaren's development team, which offered him a pathway to his goal of becoming an F1 driver.
Hamilton had already been racing and studying for three years when shortly after his 16th birthday an incident at his school put his McLaren contract on the line... one of his classmates was brutally beaten up by other kids at the school and the Brit remembers perfectly that the headmaster wanted to involve him in the fight at all costs so he could get kicked out of school. The principal told him he still had no evidence to remove him, but a couple of weeks later, the principal got his way, called Hamilton into the office and said, "Finally, I have enough to get rid of you." The driver was charged with involvement in the scuffle and expelled from the school with immediate effect.
Thanks to a thorough investigation, the driver's father, Anthony, was able to prove that the youngster had not been part of the fight and save his seat in McLaren's young driver programme, however, the number 44 of the grid never returned to school after this event.
"I don’t actually hold any grudge against those people, because they fueled me up."
On winning his last championship, Hamilton dedicated it to the children of the world: 'That’s for all the kids out there who dream the impossible'.
"Just all these past experiences, all the doubts that I had to overcome. It was one of the most emotional experiences of my life."
After the "We race as one" campaign in which the entire grid was involved, the Mercedes driver has continued his efforts to make a change and today he has a foundation called "Mission 44" which in his words is “to support, champion, and empower young people from underserved groups to succeed through narrowing opportunity gaps in education, employment, and wider society.”