Facebook is today under even more pressure to ‘eliminate’ racist abuse on Instagram after Lewis Hamilton was bombarded with monkey emojis and called a gorilla after winning the British Grand Prix in controversial fashion yesterday.
Mercedes has hinted that police should investigate some of the vile slurs aimed at their star driver and called on social media companies to do more to stop racist posts before they go online – and close the accounts of the culprits.
Seven-time world champion Hamilton, 36, was involved in a crash that saw championship leader and rival Max Verstappen plough his Red Bull into a wall and out of the race at Silverstone.
Hamilton, who is a vocal supporter of the BLM movement is leading a campaign for more racing drivers from black and ethnic minority groups, was hit by a 10 second penalty but went on to win the race and close the gap in the title race to just eight points.
Following the race, Sir Lewis received a slew of racist abuse including monkey and gorilla emojis on Instagram – the platform of choice for racists who abused Bukayo Saka, Jadon Sancho and Marcus Rashford after their penalty misses in the Euro 2020 final this month.
Today Mercedes, Hamilton’s team, released a joint statement with Formula One and the sport’s governing body, the FIA, condemning the abuse, and piled more pressure on social media giants to take steps to filter comments, ban racists and help police punish them if necessary.
‘Formula 1, The FIA and Mercedes-AMG Petronas F1 Team condemn this behaviour in the strongest possible terms’, they said.
Hamilton received racist messages on Instagram, including a gorilla emoji (left)
‘These people have no place in our sport and we urge that those responsible should be held accountable for their actions. Formula 1, the FIA, the drivers and the teams are working to build a more diverse and inclusive sport, and such unacceptable instances of online abuse must be highlighted and eliminated.’
Facebook, which owns Instagram, insists it is filtering comments but insisted ‘no single thing will fix this challenge overnight’.
A spokesman said: ‘In addition to our work to remove comments and accounts that repeatedly break our rules, there are safety features available, including Comment Filters and Message Controls, which can mean no one has to see this type of abuse. No single thing will fix this challenge overnight but we’re committed to the work to keep our community safe from abuse.’
Hamilton is yet to comment on the abuse but last week issued a post after Marcus Rashford, Jordan Sancho and Bukayo Saka were racially abused following England’s Euro 2020 final defeat against Italy at Wembley.
He wrote: ‘The racial abuse on social media towards our players after yesterday’s game is unacceptable. This sort of ignorance has to be stopped.
‘Tolerance and respect for players of colour should not be conditional. Our humanity should not be conditional.’
Today Formula One released a joint statement with the sport’s governing body, the FIA, and Hamilton’s team Mercedes-AMG Petronas condemning the abuse
Earlier in 2021, Hamilton was the first recipient of the Laureus Athlete Advocate of the Year award due to his involvement in the fight against racism.
The 36-year-old has frequently spoken about fighting racism and has pushed for increased diversity in Formula One.
Last year Hamilton hit out at the Formula One community over a lack of racial diversity amid the George Floyd protests.
The seven-time world champion – – the only black driver to ever race in the competition – said he felt isolated in trying to combat racial discrimination in a sporting discipline he described as ‘white dominated’.
In a post on Instagram, he said: ‘I see those of you staying silent, some of you the biggest stars yet you stay in the midst of injustice.
‘Not a sign from anybody in my industry which of course is a white dominated sport. I’m one of the only people of colour there yet I stand alone. I would have thought by now you would see why this happens and say something about it but you can’t stand alongside us.
‘Just know I know who you are and I see you.’
Last year, Hamilton established the Hamilton Commission with the Royal Academy of Engineering, which is attempting to help more young people from black backgrounds to be employed in motorsport or in other engineering sectors.
Alongside his anti-racism campaigns, Hamilton is a well known social activist, championing fashionable causes including veganism.
But he has also in the past taken criticism from lecturing the world on green issues, while making millions from a gas-guzzling sport which sees teams clock up more than 100,000 air miles each season as they jet to tracks across the world.
In 2019 he sold his £25million candy red private jet to help reduce his carbon emissions.
Hamilton is now worth some £250million with a home in the millionaires’ enclave of Monaco, where his collection of shoes alone spans two rooms.
He grew up in a small end of terrace home in Stevenage, and began his venture into motorsport at the tender age of just five, when his father bought him a remote controlled car.
Hamilton has frequently spoken about fighting racism and has pushed for more diversity in F1, taking the knee before races and urging other drivers to do so too
Last year, Hamilton criticised the lack of racial diversity in his own sport on Instagram
Hamilton began karting in 1993 and quickly began winning races and cadet class championships – becoming the youngest driver to win the British cadet karting championship at the age of ten.
He got his break in Formula One in 2007, partnering two-time and defending World Champion Fernando Alonso at McLaren – becoming the first and so far only black driver to race in the competition.
He finished runner-up of the championships in his debut season, losing by a point. The following year he won by the same margin. He has since scooped six championships – and is battling it out with Verstappen for a seventh.
Hamilton has often talked about his background and experience in F1 – including the racial abuse he suffered even in karting as a young boy.
Hamilton’s father, who had to remortgage his house and spend all his and his second wife’s savings just to get his son into karting for a year, was also the victim of abuse.
While Hamilton has won plenty of praise for sharing his experience, his comments have not always provoked a positive reaction.
He upset residents in his hometown of Stevenage by saying it had been his dream to ‘get out of the slums’ while collecting a BBC Sports Personality of the Year Award in 2018.
The leader of Stevenage Borough Council at the time said it was ‘disappointing’ and people felt ‘very offended’.
He later apologised, saying: ‘I wanted to take a second to send a message to people back in the UK, but also to people in Stevenage where I grew up.
‘It’s somewhere I’m incredibly proud of coming from and still love to this day.’