Lewis Hamilton inspired by Serena Williams response to Ilie Nastase abuse

Giles Richards
Lewis Hamilton in the Paddock in Sochi, Russia. Photograph: Clive Mason/Getty Images

Lewis Hamilton has spoken out in support of Serena Williams after she was the victim of racial abuse from the former player Ilie Nastase last week. The British driver, speaking before the Russian Grand Prix in Sochi, hailed Williams’s reaction to the abuse and said she was an inspiration as a “powerful, independent black woman”.

Nastase, who won both the French and US Open, was overheard saying of Williams’s unborn child: “Let’s see what colour it has. Chocolate with milk?” Williams, whose fiancé Alexis Ohanian is white, posted a strong response on Instagram, saying: “It disappoints me to know we live in a society where people like Ilie Nastase can make such racist comments towards myself and unborn child.”

Hamilton reposted the message and was forthright on the issue in Sochi. “I’m very much with her in what she said,” he said. “I thought it was beautiful what she wrote as a powerful, independent black woman. I just think she’s awesome. She’s not only one of the greatest people I know, but she’s just a born leader and so rather than react in a negative way, reading what she’s written just inspires me and hopefully inspires others.”

Hamilton also addressed the question of Mercedes employing team orders, with he and his team-mate Valtteri Bottas hopeful that they will not have to be used but with both drivers acknowledging that the fight they face with Ferrari this season means they may have to accept them.

“I do not want them and never have,” Hamilton said. “Team orders has always been a very odd thing and something I’ve never particularly liked. But it is in our rules, and our approach is that the team needs to win the race.

“It definitely doesn’t feel good for the guy asked to implement the team order or the guy behind. There may be people who don’t care that the driver in front is told to let them by but for me it doesn’t feel good because you want to beat that guy on merit.”

Hamilton trails Ferrari’s Sebastian Vettel by seven points in the drivers’ championship and Mercedes are three points behind the German’s team in the constructors. At the last round in Bahrain Mercedes told Bottas to allow Hamilton past since the British driver was quicker. Bottas insisted that he would expect Hamilton to do the same. “Of course,” he said. “We are being respected and handled the same way so it could be vice versa in this race or the next one.”

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