Motor racing-Hamilton pledges 20 million pounds to new Mission 44 foundation

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FILE PHOTO: British Grand Prix
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LONDON (Reuters) - Seven times Formula One champion Lewis Hamilton made a personal pledge of 20 million pounds ($28 million) on Tuesday as he launched a new foundation, Mission 44, supporting under-represented young people in Britain.

The money will support organisations and programmes that narrow the gap in employment and education through partnerships, collaborations, grant giving and advocacy, a statement said.

The Mercedes driver's brand partners and sponsors will also be contributing.

"Mission 44 represents my commitment to create real change within this community," said the Briton, who could celebrate a record-extending 100th career win at this weekend's Hungarian Grand Prix.

"In my early life, I experienced first-hand how coming from an underrepresented background can affect your future but, luckily for me, I was able to overcome those odds through opportunity and support," sport's only Black driver said.

"I want to ensure that other young people from similar backgrounds are able to do the same."

Hamilton has raced from early on with the number 44 on his car, rather than the number one reserved for a reigning champion.

Mercedes have launched a joint charitable initiative, Ignite, with Hamilton to support greater diversity in motorsport. That will sit under the Mission 44 umbrella.

A commission founded a year ago by Hamilton to help motorsport engage more young people from Black backgrounds issued its report this month.

Led by the Royal Academy of Engineering, it made 10 recommendations for change.

Among barriers to diversity were hiring from a select group of top universities, the rural locations of teams and systemic under-achievement in schools.

"The findings of The Hamilton Commission and its recommendations have provided us with a fantastic basis to begin our work," said Hamilton.

"Change within the industry is long overdue, but we are now firmly on the journey towards transforming it for the better."

Mercedes team boss Toto Wolff said Ignite would complement the team's own Accelerate 25 programme and bring more talent from under-represented groups into Formula One and the wider motorsport industry.

($1 = 0.7250 pounds)

(Reporting by Alan Baldwin; Editing by Edmund Blair)

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