Five-time Formula 1 world champion Lewis Hamilton believes racism is a “very, very prominent” world issue and doubts it will change “for a long time”.
Earlier this week he expressed support to black players of the England national football team who suffered racist abuse during a European Championships qualifying match in Montenegro.
When asked ahead of this weekend’s Bahrain Grand Prix if he was startled to see the incident in that match, which has led to an investigation by European football’s governing body UEFA, Hamilton said: “It’s crazy to think that at this time in the world it’s still very, very prominent.
“It’s really there, all round the world. Racism is still an issue, which is sad to see. It doesn’t seem like it’s going to be migrating much over the next years.
“It’s great to see people standing by in support. But it doesn’t look like it’s something that’s going to particularly change for a long time.”
In 2014 Hamilton admitted he “tried to ignore the fact I was the first black guy ever to race in the sport” when he started in F1, before growing to “appreciate the implications”.
Now, Hamilton has more than 10 million followers on Instagram and the biggest global following of any F1 driver, and has used that platform to highlight other global issues, such as the pollution of beaches and seas.
Hamilton says he is trying to use his profile responsibly to be part of a process of eventually steering change.
“I’m obviously in a privileged position, that I do happen to have quite a lot of power, particularly with social media,” he said.
“There are things that I see all the time, there’s a lot of stuff that I don’t post that I want to post.
“You have to keep a balance, because I have older followers, young followers, and choosing what you do show and don’t show.
“There are so many issues around the world still today. There are some things that I’m able to put on social media that people can react to and create conversation.”
Hamilton said that from his experience, a sterner stance needed to be taken towards ignorance at a young age.
“People just need to stand up for it more,” he added. “I just remember being at school and when I was younger and you kind of get a slap on the hand and things are kind of let slide, and I don’t think that should happen.
“Action should be taken and people should be a lot stricter with it.”