‘Lone ranger’ Lewis Hamilton criticises F1 under Bernie Ecclestone regime

Sam Cooper
Lewis Hamilton with a coat on. Silverstone, February 2023.

Lewis Hamilton with a coat on. Silverstone, February 2023.

Lewis Hamilton has praised the new Formula 1 ownership for being “better” and having “more empathy” than the previous regime under Bernie Ecclestone.

The now 92-year-old Ecclestone ran F1 for 40 years after winning a struggle for power back in the 1970s, before Formula One Management was purchased by Liberty Media in 2016 and Ecclestone left the sport.

Even as early as Hamilton’s debut season, he was increasingly at odds with Ecclestone over the latter’s behaviour, which he was forced to apologise for on several occasions.

But even after he has left the sport, Ecclestone continues to criticise Hamilton.

In June last year, Ecclestone responded to Nelson Piquet using a racist slur, for which he was fined £780,000 this week, by telling the Mercedes driver that he “should be happy” that Piquet had apologised.

It was around the same time that Ecclestone said he would “take a bullet” for the Russian President Valdimir Putin and suggested Putin “believed he was doing the right thing for Russia”, comments which caused the new ownership of F1 to distance themselves from Ecclestone.

Speaking of his experience in the sport, Hamilton, who is the only black driver in Formula 1 history, said he did not feel like he could speak out under Ecclestone’s reign as he would be painted as “the angry black man.”

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“There wasn’t change or any movement until 2020 or 2021. The last couple of years is where you’re starting to see some sort of change,” he told Sky Sports.

“But before that [I] was the lone ranger and couldn’t really talk on the subject as it would just be ‘oh you’re the angry black man.’

“[It] was a difficult and very narrow path to walk and a very lonely path to walk.”

Hamilton commented that under the new leadership of Liberty Media and Stefano Domenicali, Formula 1 had “better people” running it and ones that have shown “more empathy.”

“But since 2020, I think [we’ve] created allies,” the seven-time World Champion said.

“The sport has, I would say, better people in governance and in running it who have more empathy, who are more open minded, realising that the more inclusive sport is, the better not just for them but better for everyone.

“That’s within it, and more reflective of the outside world because we’ve got a huge fan base.”