Lewis Hamilton’s former McLaren Formula 1 team boss Martin Whitmarsh is among the 14 experts assisting the Hamilton Commission, which aims to identify barriers to black people participating in motorsport.
Six-time F1 world champion Hamilton launched the research project in association with the Royal Academy of Engineering earlier this year.
Hamilton is the only black driver in F1 and one of only two non-white drivers on the grid, the other being British-born Thai Alex Albon, and has championed anti-racism movements and greater diversity in recent months.
“Change isn’t coming quickly enough, and we need to know why” :: Lewis Hamilton
He hopes the new commission, which met for the first time earlier in September and will run for nine months, will clearly identify hurdles for black people to enter motorsport and progress, and provide “actionable recommendations to overcome them”.
Hamilton will co-chair the commission alongside the academy’s chief executive Dr Hayaaun Silem, and they will be supported by 14 “experts and industry leaders from within the UK who represent a range of perspectives on the challenge”.
Ex-McLaren CEO Whitmarsh, whose time in that role included Hamilton’s debut and first world title prior to becoming team principal then leaving McLaren in 2014, will be joined by others whose experience spans engineering, schools, colleges and universities, community/youth groups, and major UK political parties.
The commissioners will contribute to the research process, analyse the findings and determine the challenges and opportunities for young black people “entering STEM [science, technology, engineering and mathematics] careers, particularly in UK motorsport”, while also advising on the final actions and recommendations the commission will communicate.
“Since I began my professional racing career in Formula 1, 14 years ago, I was the first driver of colour and to this day, sadly that is still the case,” said Hamilton.
“However, what is more concerning is that there are still very few people of colour across the sport as a whole.
“In F1, our teams are much bigger than the athletes that front them, but representation is insufficient across every skill set – from the garage to the engineers in the factories and design departments.
“Change isn’t coming quickly enough, and we need to know why.
“This is why I wanted to set up the Commission and I’m proud to be working with the Royal Academy of Engineering and our incredible Board of Commissioners to identify the barriers facing young Black people to take up STEM careers in motorsport.
“We are dedicated to this cause and together, we will make a change.”
Hamilton’s Mercedes team changed its livery on the eve of the 2020 season to a black design as a strong symbol of anti-racism and pledged an internal review after revealing only 3% of its workforce identified as belonging to minority ethnic groups.
Every other team contacted by The Race for their diversity figures either failed to respond or said they do not keep track of those numbers.
F1 has launched its own initiatives to raise awareness of racism and pledged to take action to improve diversity, including a fund that will bankroll scholarships and apprenticeships for minority groups.
However, the Hamilton Commission hopes to use motorsport’s range of roles and responsibilities offered by teams to “simultaneously address the under-representation of black people in UK motorsport and the STEM sector”.
Co-chair Dr Sillem called it “a truly unique opportunity to drive transformational change on this crucial issue, and in the process to learn more about how we can enrich diversity in other parts of engineering and society”.
The commission formally started on September 1, and there will be three further meetings through the process.
Its final results will be specific to the UK but it is hopefully that, where possible, the recommendations and actions will be replicable internationally.
The Hamilton Commission’s board of commissioners:
Karen Chouhan, Lead Equality Officer with a specialism in race policy for the National Education Union
Jeremy Cook OBE, Chief Executive of the Black Training and Enterprise Group
Tracey Crouch MP, former Sports Minister and British Conservative Party politician
Dr Nike Folayan MBE, Co-founder and Chair of the Association for Black and Minority Ethnic Engineers, AFBE-UK
Professor Alice Gast, President of Imperial College London
Mark Hamlin, Chair of Project 44
Dr Zubaida Haque, Former Interim Director of the Runnymede Trust
Dr Anne-Marie Imafidon MBE, Co-founder of Stemettes and Trustee at the Institute for the Future of Work
George Imafidon, Co-Founder of Motivez, One Young World Ambassador and Royal Academy of Engineering Scholar
Glen Lambert, Head of School of Construction, Science and Engineering at College of Haringey, Enfield and North East London
Professor David Mba, Pro-Vice Chancellor Research and Enterprise, and Dean of the Faculty of Computing, Engineering and Media at De Montfort University
Izzy Obeng, Managing Director at Foundervine and Non-Executive Director for Capital Enterprise
Chi Onwurah MP, British Member of Parliament representing Newcastle upon Tyne Central and also Shadow Minister Digital, Science & Technology
Martin Whitmarsh, Former CEO of the McLaren Formula One Team, Member of the Global Advisory Board of Formula E, Chair of the Offshore Wind Growth Partnership Limited and Chairman of BAR Technologies Limited