Damon Hill believes Lewis Hamilton could be left to carry Formula One’s anti-racism baton alone – fearing people will grow tired of the Briton’s campaign.
Hamilton will take a knee ahead of Sunday’s British Grand Prix – and he is set to be joined by a number of drivers. The sport’s bosses have scheduled a slot in the timetable before the Silverstone race to avoid the messy arrangement seen at the past two rounds.
A split, however, has emerged among the grid with as many as eight of the 20 drivers uneasy at performing a gesture associated with the Black Lives Matter movement. Red Bull’s Max Verstappen and Ferrari driver Charles Leclerc have said they will continue to stand.
“People don’t like being told what to do,” 1996 world champion Hill told the PA news agency. “They also tire of things quite quickly.
“The support can be there initially but how do you go forward with this? You don’t want to wear out people’s sympathies so it is going to be a challenge to keep the flag flying for Lewis’ cause. Maybe he is going to have to do it on his own and move on?
“It is entirely appropriate for Lewis to carry on. Everyone is behind him, everyone gets what he wants to do and the support is there in helping black people achieve their goal of being rid of prejudice and injustices.
“That is a constant battle but there are other causes, too. Does Sebastian Vettel have an initiative to support, for example? Teams want to support charities also.
“For it now onwards to all be about Black Lives Matter is wrong. And if it just becomes about Lewis’ campaign I fear it will be bound solely on him. I would hate to see that happen.”
Hamilton, who heads into his home race as the favourite to win at Silverstone for a remarkable seventh time, has used his social media platforms to criticise three-time world champion Sir Jackie Stewart, 81, and Mario Andretti, 80.
Stewart said there “was no resistance to change” in Formula One, while American Andretti, the 1978 world champion, described Hamilton as “pretentious” and “creating a problem that doesn’t exist.” Hamilton called Andretti “ignorant” and Stewart’s comments “disappointing”.
Hill added: “The future is going to be from Lewis downwards. He is 35 and not a young man anymore. It is their world, not the way my parents saw it, or the elder statesmen see it.
“But you have to be very careful with showing respect and slinging accusations around. I don’t believe that Sir Jackie Stewart is racist. I don’t believe that Mario Andretti doesn’t understand the situation at all. Both men are experienced and worldly.
“Don’t forget the Springfield Youth Club in Hackney which Jackie is the president of. Nearly all the families are from a black background so that has been an encouraging and positive endorsement that the Stewart family has been involved with.”
Hamilton remains the sport’s sole black driver and this year is on course to match Michael Schumacher’s record haul of seven world championships.
He will also move to within four victories of Schumacher’s all-time win tally if he the takes the chequered flag on Sunday. Considering the speed of Hamilton’s Mercedes this season there is every chance he will surpass Schumacher’s 91 wins this autumn.
Hill added: “When Lewis first came into F1 in 2007, the view was, ‘what do you think of Lewis Hamilton being the first black Formula One driver?’ And people were ducking the issue. They were saying ‘I don’t see his colour and it is not an issue’. I thought, ‘Are you joking?’ ‘Can you be serious?’
“It was a breakthrough moment, a completely transformative moment for our sport. There is a black guy here, who not only is racing in our sport, which is as rare as can be, but he is bloody good, too. And now he is on the verge of becoming the best.
“If he didn’t say he was proud of being the first black Formula One world champion there would be something strange going on. It is part of his make-up, part of his motivation and Formula One should celebrate that he has had the opportunity to do that.
“I get more and more impressed with Lewis. He seems to learn something new every year; whether that is how he conducts himself, how he works or motivates the team or how he drives. It is just incredible.
“He has fulfilled every indication of his talent that we saw when he was younger and at the end of this year he could be the best racing driver of all-time.”