From Equal Racing to Racial Equality: What is Formula 1’s #WeRaceAsOne Initiative?

The new Formula 1 season kicked off last month and brought the second season of the #WeRaceAsOne initiative with it.

The program was launched last season to help impact change in the sport and within wider society itself. A key part of this was a long-term pledge to improve diversity and inclusion within F1. All teams took a unified stance against racism last season and will do it again this season.

Alongside the initiative, an F1 taskforce was also created. This listened to everyone across the paddock, from the drivers to external figures. The role of the taskforce is to make conclusions on the actions required to improve diversity and opportunity at all levels of F1.

However, the #WeRaceAsOne initiative occasionally came under fire last season for being poorly managed. Notably, at the Hungarian Grand Prix, five drivers arrived late for the pre-race anti-racism ceremony. Lewis Hamilton personally criticised the ceremony for being “rushed” and said that F1 need to “do a better job.”

In an attempt to rectify this situation, this season, the #WeRaceAsOne platform will focus on three main areas: sustainability, diversity and inclusion, and community.

Like last year, the drivers will use the period before the start of races to show their united support for critical issues, which F1 President Stefano Domenicali said effectively raised awareness of socially fundamental problems and continued to commit to creating a more diverse and inclusive culture in the sport.

This season though, F1 has also adopted the initiative as their official Environment, Social and Corporate Governance (ESG) platform. This means that together with the Federation Internationale de l’Automobile (FIA), they hope to promote a diverse driver talent pipeline.

They will do this by identifying and systematically eliminating barriers to entry from grassroots karting to F1. This new commitment will see a greater focus put on increasing the engagement of schoolchildren, from a diverse economic and social background, in F1 and wider motorsport, whilst also promoting the W series, to increase interest in the sport among young women.

Last season, 13 out of the 20 drivers regularly took the knee, whilst all drivers wore anti-racism t-shirts during the pre-race show of support for the fight against racism. The seven drivers who did not kneel were initially criticised for their stance, as many felt that it did not help the sport’s attempt to show a united stand against racism.

However, the drivers came out and said they were all 100% committed to ending discrimination against Black people. The seven drivers who chose not to kneel did so for various personal reasons. For example, AlphaTauri’s Daniil Kvyat, stated that kneeling goes against the mentality of his country, where you only go on your knees for God and the flag.

Both Sebastian Vettel and Romain Grosjean, who were directors of the Grand Prix Drivers Association (GPDA), said they were happy that all drivers were fully supportive of the fight to end racism and the #WeRaceAsOne initiative.

Seven-time F1 World Champion Lewis Hamilton launched his own research initiative in June last year. The research project was set up because he wanted real, tangible, and measurable change. The project includes a 14-strong commission, led by Hamilton and Dr Hayaatun Sillem, the Royal Academy of Engineering chief executive.

The board will identify the barriers facing young black people to take up STEM (science, technology, engineering, and mathematics) careers in motorsport. Alongside this, F1 has established a new foundation to fund internships and apprenticeships for people from underrepresented groups.

For far too long, F1 has lagged behind other sports with the representativeness of its driver population. Hopefully, in the years to come, these initiatives will see long overdue change come about.

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Drew Murphy

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May 2022
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