Formula 1’s ever expanding race calendar has grown to a record-breaking 24 races for the 2023 season - in a calendar announced last week by the FIA – including three races in the United States, races in Qatar, China and Saudi Arabia, and many more, none of which taking place in the African continent. There were plans for a South African GP in Kyalami to take place in 2023, but that is now expected to happen the following year.
Speaking to RaceFans and selected media at the Dutch GP in early September, Hamilton expressed how he admires the continent, and said that he enjoyed his summer break exploring various countries in Africa, helping him put “things into perspective” and enjoy unique moments and sights with his friends:
“It just feels like we generally in life take things for granted because they’re there,” he says. “But it just puts a lot of things into perspective.
“Seeing animals in their natural habitat was… ‘wow’. When we were in Tanzania, I felt like I was in The Lion King. After the mid-part of the day, I’ll be working out in the gym and a zebra is just outside or elephants just outside or you come out of the gym and walk to your room and there’s elephants like 50 metres away and you’re like ‘woah’.
Sanctuary 🇰🇪❤️ pic.twitter.com/CeO3XXJKMX— Lewis Hamilton (@LewisHamilton) August 14, 2022
“Africa has wealthy cities as well and great businesses, but I really wanted to kind of get to the core of the continent. I’ve seen some of that stuff in the past. I’ve been to South Africa before, I went on a safari when I came down to see Nelson Mandela with my family. But I’m a different part of my life [now].
“I was able to appreciate it so much more and I’ve just found it really grounding, very centring. And it was fun. Me and my friends had fun – a lot of laughter, to the point where you’re getting a stitch, which sometimes when you’re working, you don’t get that. So it was just good to have that.”
The Briton believes there is “no reason why” F1 shouldn’t race in Africa, and said that he is “working” with F1 CEO Stefano Domenicali to have the sport racing in the continent in the future, saying that it is his “dream” to race in Africa before he retires from F1:
“We are on all the other continents, so why not? We go to a lot of these places to highlight those countries and those communities there, so there was no reason why not to do that in Africa.”
“I’ve been working as hard as I can with Stefano in the background to try and get that happening,” says Hamilton. “It’s also a dream for me to have that before I stop racing – to have a race in Africa would be incredible.
“But also my time there, just getting to see kids in the streets, it kind of highlights there’s lots can be done for the young kids in the communities that don’t have the same opportunities we have, whether it’s clothes, there’s lots of great organisations. So I’m now looking into that to see how I can get more involved.”
Already can’t wait to come back 🌍❤️ pic.twitter.com/srbbK0eybf— Lewis Hamilton (@LewisHamilton) August 17, 2022
Despite Hamilton’s best efforts off-track to make the sport more diverse and inclusive for all, F1 still races in countries like Saudi Arabia and Qatar, which deny basic human rights to some of its citizens, for example LGBTQ+. Hamilton says that it is “out of my control” and that he tries to “understand” each situation, but admitted it is “not easy”:
“I try not to worry about that because again, that’s kind of out of my control,” he says.
“You end up being in sometimes the uncomfortable position of having to speak out on things or being questioned about it. It’s definitely not easy. I just try to understand a little bit of as much as I can about the place that I am going. The fact is, you can’t change the world in a short space of time. So just trying to be understanding of where people are in different cultures and religions and all that sort of thing.”
The Mercedes driver has made it clear that he will still try to change the sport for the better even after his racing career is done, stating that he “will always be that thorn” on Domenicali’s side, calling for change even from a distance:
“I will still be always, even if I’m not racing. Maybe from a distance, I’m always going to be a fan of this sport.
“And I hope Stefano’s here for a very long time. I’ll always be on the other end of the phone and be like ‘hey, why are you not doing this? You’re not doing this enough’. So I’ll always be that thorn that hopefully ignites some interesting conversations,” concluded Hamilton.