December 6th, 2006

First Black Driver in Formula One

For those of you who follow Formula One (F1) motor racing, you know that it is a sport that has traditionally been dominated by White Europeans. There have been numerous Asian drivers in the series before, most from Japan and one from Malaysia. Before the 2005 season, F1 added its first ever driver from India. Now comes word that f1 is about to have its first Black driver, Lewis Hamilton from Britain, whose grandparents came from the West Indies:

Backed by [Team Mercedes] McLaren for a decade, Hamilton showed dazzling speed and maturity beyond his years in winning at the first attempt this year’s GP2 championship that acts as a feeder series to Formula One. . . . Already hailed as Formula One’s answer to Tiger Woods, Hamilton has left it to others to comment about his skin color. “The way I see it, my color is an advantage in that it’s something people talk about,” he said earlier this year.

“But the bottom line is that it’s clearly not why I’m in this position.” [Team McLaren Director Ron] Dennis agrees with that: “His blackness isn’t important,” he said last year. “I have consistently said to him: ‘The moment that you exploit your blackness, you are going to have a problem with me.’ Basically, you’ve got to develop your career on your ability to drive a racing car.”

Having followed F1 for decades, I can attest that it is one profession in which there really is no affirmative action -- you either drive well, or you are toast. At the top teams like McLaren, there is no room for mediocrity. With that in mind, that makes Lewis Hamilton’s rise even more significant -- he is not the product of affirmative action but rather, he has the talent necessary to succeed in this cutthroat sport.

Congratulations and continuing success to Lewis and Team McLaren.

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