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Why F1 needs more voices like Hamilton amid Horner chaos

Why F1 needs more voices like Hamilton amid Horner chaos

Why F1 needs more voices like Hamilton amid Horner chaos

Why F1 needs more voices like Hamilton amid Horner chaos

Before a race, focus is essential for a driver. So it’s no surprise that when asked if the chaos surrounding Christian Horner – following allegations against the team principal by a female staff member – Red Bull driver Max Verstappen insisted to reporters that the issue ‘doesn’t affect’ him.

His response, as a Red Bull representative and employee of Horner himself, was always likely to stay in the vicinity of making guarded statements, keeping a cool head and expressing a desire to focus on racing. And that caution is important for Red Bull, as discussion of the issue continues in the paddock.

Unbound by Red Bull responsibility, others in the sport have responded to the issue rather more vocally than Verstappen.

The world of F1 has been reeling for several weeks, since news broke that a female employee at Red Bull had filed a complaint against Horner, accusing him of ‘coercive’ behaviour.

Since then, Red Bull has conducted an internal investigation that eventually dismissed the complainant’s case, the announcement of which was soon followed by leaked documents purportedly showing messages between Horner and the complainant. The authenticity of the files has not been proven.

The employee has remained anonymous, and Red Bull has not released details of the investigation itself beyond exonerating Horner of any inappropriate behaviour.

Team principals Zak Brown, of McLaren, and Toto Wolff, of Mercedes, have criticised a lack of transparency around Red Bull’s investigation and called on the FIA to intervene.

READ MORE: Hamilton reveals thoughts on Horner investigation

Christian Horner has faced allegations of 'coercive' behaviour
Zak Brown has called for transparency from Red Bull over the allegations

Of course, this entire saga makes for salacious gossip in the F1 world, and despite racing kicking off with a double-header in Bahrain and Jeddah, the name ‘Horner’ is the only one on everyone’s lips. This means that, despite the case revolving around a complaint by an employee making serious allegations about personal safety, that employee herself has been somewhat forgotten.

One figure in the sport who hasn’t forgotten her, though, is Lewis Hamilton. Though he remained calm and considered as he offered his thoughts on the issue, the seven-time world champion put the alleged victim first and brought the discussion back to what perhaps should have been the focus all along: the question of employee safety and the importance of the sport sticking by its values.

He told Sky Sports: “We always have to do more to try and make the sport and the environment that people get to work in feel safe and inclusive and any allegations have to be taken very seriously.”

Hamilton acknowledged that “obviously we don’t know everything that’s gone on”, but called for a resolution as “it’s hanging over the sport”.

Musing on the wider ramifications of the issue, Hamilton added: "It will be really interesting to see how it’s dealt with moving forwards and the effect that it may or may not have on the sport moving forwards.

“I think it’s a really important moment for the sport to make sure that we stand true to our values.”

Hamilton's history as an inclusivity advocate

Standing for inclusivity and keeping the sport a safe space is not new to the seven-time world champion. In recent months, he also came out in defence of Susie Wolff, the managing director of F1 Academy, former racer and wife of Toto.

The F1 power couple were claimed to be under investigation for an alleged conflict of interest, given their different but important roles in racing.

A week later, it was confirmed that neither were being investigated, but the issue raised speculation as to their integrity and Susie in particular came under fire.

Speaking out on the issue, Hamilton was fiery in his condemnation of the way the sport’s governing body had behaved towards Susie.

Susie Wolff is the managing director of F1 Academy
Lewis Hamilton spoke up in support of Toto Wolff and Susie Wolff

He said at the time: "A disappointing week, really, to see that the governing body of our sport has sought to question the integrity of one of the most incredible female leaders we've ever had in our sport, with Susie Wolff, without questioning, without any evidence.

"And then just saying sorry at the end, and that's just unacceptable.”

Once again, he made sure to relate the individual circumstances the Wolffs had faced to wider issues that need addressing in the sport, saying: "There is a constant fight to really improve diversity and inclusion within the industry.

“It seems there are certain individuals in the leadership within the FIA that, every time we try to make a step forward, they try to pull us back, and that has to change."

Hamilton: Female drivers are being heard

The seven-time world champion has also used his global profile to raise awareness for equality and inclusivity in the sport.

He has previously discussed how he enjoyed watching the now defunct W Series, saying he wants female drivers to know they are ‘being watched and being heard’.

F1 Academy seeks to help young female drivers into the sport

He said in June: “ I really enjoyed watching the W Series when I was in Austin, I think it was last year, but I like to go on the pit wall and watch them.

“I thought that it was really important to go down to the paddock and get to meet them. I don't get time a lot through the weekend to go down and visit GP 2, [which is] where I came from."

Not only that, but Hamilton has demanded ‘real research’ into the roots of the sport’s inequalities, in order that they can be addressed.

Asked about F1 Academy last year, he said: "I have got to acknowledge something is being done.

"But if there was actually real research to find out why there is a small group of women, such a lack of women coming through, having the opportunity, we probably go back to karting, you would find it is not equal in go-karts.

"From my own experience, in the years I raced there were probably only two or three girls in my whole karting career, from eight to 16. There will probably be 40 boys and one girl maybe.

"So you have got to create a more inclusive environment. Inclusivity is an issue all the way down into karting so you can have a bigger pipeline of younger women trying to come through. Then that class will be good."

With figures like Hamilton in the sport, backing up the important work of Susie and her peers in women’s racing, paddocks are likely to feel more equal in gender in the future.

And in the sport as a whole, knowing a seven-time world champion is an advocate for female safety, gender equality and diversity in F1 is likely to inspire and reassure many.

READ MORE: Wolff hints at driver to help deal with Hamilton 'curveball'

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