Just when you thought things couldn't get much worse than a deadly virus that killed every engine, another epidemic struck Formula 1 - toxically divisive politics.

Because I'm not 8, I'm old enough to remember when the FIA would insist that sport and politics should always be kept separate - even (and perhaps especially) when Bahrain was ablaze in 2011, for instance. Back then, the sport's governing body supported the cancellation of the troubled Kingdom's race, but only on the grounds of safety, amid burning tyres, tanks on the streets and clouds of tear gas. The complex politics of the situation, so they rightly said, didn't much enter into it - much to the chagrin of those keen to denounce the island Kingdom's alleged brutality.

Sometimes, however, it's much harder to separate the politics of a moment from the cultural zeitgeist - especially one as rampant as the one we're all living through today. Take the Chase Carey-led sport's controversial banning of grid girls, for instance. On the one hand, it appeared to be a simple act of 21st century progress and decency, but on the other, there are critics who would point out that no one really asked the 'girls' in question whether they supported this involuntary neo-suffragette moment. And when they did get asked, the proudly scantily-clad girls made it abundantly clear that all this politically-correct gesture did was rob money from their bank accounts.

The safest conclusion here is that politics, as much as is possible, should be kept away from dinners with extended family and Formula 1. In the latter sphere, it's tempting to want to keep it to tyre compounds, driver contracts, budget caps and Lewis Hamilton's gold chains, even though 'green' technologies have become unavoidable. But it's always true that so many people watch and follow sport (and watch movies and listen to music) to escape from the often depressing nature of 'real life'. They want to get away from politics, not swim in it a little more.

Lewis Hamilton's opinion

But in the year of our Lord 2020, sports people now not only *can* talk about politics, they apparently *must* talk about politics.

How do I know? Lewis Hamilton said so.

Hamilton not eyeing leap to Formula E

Lewis Hamilton

"I know who you are and I see you," the reigning six-time world champion said in a social media post accusing his "white" rivals of "staying silent" amid the George Floyd protests and unrest.

I don't need to explain who George Floyd is. We all saw the video, and some of us made it to the end. I, for one, did not, because at a certain point I had seen enough. The man was treated like crap and the perpetrator(s) should be brought to justice. Obviously.

But when I watched that video in the hours immediately after it was filmed by one of the world's 5.24 billion smartphone users, I promise you that I never imagined in my wildest dreams that the outcome would be widespread protests, riots, looting, the deaths of at least 20 more human beings, and calls (that so far are being heeded) for widespread societal and structural change.

So as the police cars burned and other human victims of this troubled moment in western history lay motionless on the streets of major US cities, Hamilton exercised his right to an opinion. I'm not going tell you whether I agree with it or I don't agree with it, because that's actually irrelevant here. To repeat: the Mercedes driver has every right to an opinion. I will always defend his right to speak freely - no exceptions.

However, fuelled by the power and cultural influence of social media, his appeal to those exercising 'silent white guilt' was extremely effective, and had the result of turning his political opinion not just into a headline, but into some sort of objective moral truth. One by one, Hamilton's fellow drivers - exercising their fallow neck muscles, eating corn chips on the couch or racing on a home simulator when the social media 'ping' went off - followed suit. To the man, all of those who heeded the call to end their silence - even non-white ex drivers like Karun Chandhok - indicated that they of course back Hamilton's moral stance.

Liberty Media's opinion

Even Mercedes itself, not to mention Liberty Media's sporting director Ross Brawn, stood with Lewis. Even when the British driver was opining that statues depicting men who hundreds of years ago committed what Hamilton described as "racist" acts should be torn down and thrown into the river, Brawn stood with Lewis "completely" - because his views are "very valid".

So that's all hunky dory then. But here's the problem: What if someone doesn't agree with Lewis?

One man who may not agree is Chase Carey, Formula 1's American CEO. He has kept his personal views quiet as the political situation exploded into a mushroom cloud this year, and - just as I support Hamilton's right to speak - I support Chase's right to stay mum.

Mrs. Carey's opinion

But someone not staying quiet is Chase's wife.

Along with Boris Johnson's handling of the coronavirus crisis, another of Hamilton's political gripes is with Donald Trump. Recently, he put the caption "Yes" along with a black fist together with an image of the Time magazine cover telling the US president it is "Time ... to go".

Chase Carey apologizes to F1 Fans

Chase Carey

Mrs Carey, though, is a Trump cheerleader. In 2017, @BeachWendy wished The Don a happy birthday, along with the words 'MAGA' and 'Keep us safe'. Later, she tweeted that the entire White House press corps should be disbanded, and in 2018 chided the NFL for not making players like Colin Kaepernick stand for the national anthem.

Wendy's Tweets in early 2020 encouraged Trump to "stay strong" after the impeachment ordeal and the early stages of the coronavirus crisis, highlighting his "lightening speed". And as recently as a week ago, she crowned him the "best President ever", arguing that the situation in the US with protests and riots was "NONE of his fault".

As I said, I'm a fierce advocate at this point of keeping sport and divisive politics separate - as the old standard always used to be. I'm not saying Hamilton or Mrs Carey shouldn't tweet, I'm just saying that while Hamilton is perfectly entitled to his view, Mrs Carey is perfectly entitled to hers - who cares? We're all here to see fast cars whiz around a track, not drag our horribly polarised political mess into a sport that should unite, not divide us. So when Hamilton tweeted his political fury and essentially shamed his peers, employer and sport into following suit, the correct response by everyone should have been the old standard: "My political views are private." Instead, it's pretty clear where Formula 1's moral heart beats with regards to the events of the past few weeks. It would be a brave and lonely man to break with the mob at this point.

Unfortunately for Chase, whose political views I have absolutely no idea about (and couldn't care less about, either), it seems that the events of the past few days may have put him in a fairly tricky spot. If F1 ambassador Brawn is fully supportive of F1 ambassador Hamilton's political views, where does that leave the moustachioed CEO?

Hopefully, it just doesn't matter and we can get on with things now. Roll on Austria.


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24 F1 Fan comments on “Why politics should be kept out of Formula 1

  1. ReallyOldRacer

    Good read, but politics is endemic in EVERYTHING. You need only to read Swede's response to my F1 cost control suggestion to get the point. We now attribute politics to everything in our lives (yes, I understand that racism is apolitical), even the mighty bastion religion has fallen to the lure of social control.

    Can we please get back to racing and talk about RIC's spectacular overtake or VER 's remarkable car control? You know, racing stuff.

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  2. Alexander Key

    Complete paradox.
    An article on an F1 site critical of the irrelevant nature of the behavior of others to F1.
    If it bothers you that much, why wouldn’t you use your hard earned industry connections and find something relevant to F1 to write about?
    The Law of Jante and a tendency to continually discredit and disparage achievers.
    Boring.

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  3. Alexander Key

    I wonder why an obviously pro-Trump article is "news"?

    Formula 1 is about inclusion and internationalism. Progressive politics are part of that. If you are not in agreement with LH, then you are on the wrong side of history, and will not be missed.

    Also, everything Trump touches turns to crap. The USA should be removed from F1 until it gets its situation sorted, which could be decades.

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  4. Tim Morrison

    Using this article to comment / protest about other people commenting/ protesting issues that they are concerned about is somewhat hypocritical. The reality is racing is just a sport and a business. People dying, being tortured, denied freedom, or this global pandemic IS important. Don’t blame the messengers in our sport. If everyone would worked on racism for the last 20 or 200 years, Lewis would not need to speak up about it.

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  5. Keep PC Culture Out Of F1

    Get woke - go broke! As an F1 fan it pains me to say it, but F1 can't afford any more nails in the coffin. There's very little room left. FWIW, excellent article Andrew. You kept your bias - whatever it may be, out of the article and actually had new information in it. No wonder your not mainstream!

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  6. Colin Murphy

    I'm so done with all these "celebrities" and their opinions. Yes, keep politics out of F1 as I'm already teetering on the edge of moving on. I was a Hamilton fan and hoping for another championship but now just tired him and his vegan preaching and now this BLM. Rooting for Botas to win a F1 world championship and deny Lewis the record. STFU and drive!

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    • Swede

      Ha, STFU and race! Funny...
      Lewis' goofy publuc comments are what will keeo him out of Ferrari forever (plus they have 3 great drivers).
      One day rediculing his nephews for wearing dresses, the next demanding we tear down all statues of former slave owners... while driving for a team that used slave labor just 75 years ago... He does need to check facts before rambling...

      Bet hecwears tennis shoes made in China by questionable workers

      Where would Rome be without statues?

      Guess I agree... STFU & Drive!

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  7. I can't remember

    F1 became political when they rewarded despotic regimes with F1 races, in my opinion. When someone says "black lives matter" that person is not political but criticizing that person's statement definitely is a political.

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  8. gerard

    It is a shame that we even have to talk about this hypocritical behaviour of Mr Hamilton what a frustrated comedian he is. Taking big money, for many years, in a row even when his brand have to fire so many people and stgill claim that he had a difficult time when he was young. Come on F1 make the rules on this point (politics) Bring political statements in F1 - penalty 1 race ban at least. And yes I was a fan of this 6 time world champion but I am not so sure after he is destroying F1 with his no factual incomplete statements

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  9. Moral Fibre

    Black Lives Matter, and yet #LH44 is more than happy to accept his pay cheque from a company that, by its own admission, had a manufacturing force comprised of forced labor, prisoners of war and those detained as a part of The Final Solution in Word War II.
    You see, Mr Hamilton is not only morally compromised, he is an outright hypocrite.

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  10. rulon black

    The author of this article is not really upset that drivers have political opinions. he is upset because they have opinions that he disagrees with.

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  11. Pandorabox

    Why do we all watch F1? Because of cars - because of technology- because of emotions which are linked to every race (well almost every) it is because we can chose who we support for whatever reasons we like. I would prefer to hear why are the drivers excited about a new design of the wings or their opinions about budget cap, the future of they pays, the postponed implementation of new regulations rather than hearing their voice on matters irrelevant for the sport - regardless if it is what is their political believe or what do they prefer to eat for a dinner.
    Hamilton always had attitude - i am the smartest I am always right everyone must listen to what I want to say because - you know - see above.
    The fact that he denies the right of other people To focus on things which are important to them and Bullying them to expres their opinion on matters which mr. Always right wants them to engage is just funny.
    Let’s leave him alone and let him bark a bit - as it is his right to do so - let him get get tired and out of focus - and win with him on the track.

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    • John

      Sport is supposed to be about pleasure not politics. I have always supported Lewis but he has become doctorial and offensive. His disrespect for the right of others to remain silent is in itself disgraceful. I respect his views so please respect mine whatever they may be. The F1 landscape has just become toxic.

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  12. Andrew Maitland

    Thanks for all the feedback everyone. I'd much rather switch to another topic but I will just continue to write about what I consider to be important to write about. It's heartening to see that many people are also very worried about the trends we are seeing in the sport we love. The only thing we can do about it is to be brave and try to be heard. Cheers.

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  13. Trevor Marshall

    Well I have been an avid F1 fan for years and made many pilgrimages to Silverstone for the British GP. I am not interested in politics and I certainly dont fancy a bunch of spoilt brats telling me that the world is unfair. Thats it for F1 for me to BORING now. Bye forever

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  14. Les

    Hamilton has a personal agenda , but make your statements as personal things , do not bring it into F1 and don't try to get others to go along with you. F1 is not the place for political activism , fans just want to watch racing.

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  15. Red

    I am a 62 year old male and have watched formula 1 as long as i can remember as well as moto gp touring cars superbikes football tennis golf athletics never once in all those years have i thought about what orientation or colour the individual was only how i was enjoying the event.I would just like to thank Hamilton for not only ruining formula 1 for me but for also putting his fellow drivers under pressure to follow his views totally time to switch off i think.

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