Taking a stand is not optional for Lewis Hamilton.

The Formula One champion is one of the stars on the cover of British GQ‘s Men of the Year 2020 issue, and in it he opens up about his experiences of racism, and why he decided to take a knee in support of Black Lives Matter.

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“I started experiencing racism when I was five and people looked upon it so lightly, when someone would throw out these words, the bullying and the beatings and the intimidation… My dad always said, ‘Do your talking on the track,’ so I held my tongue, but we suppress a lot of things and all my suppressed emotions came up and I was like, ‘You know what? I have to do something. I cannot stay silent,’” Hamilton says. “If we all stay silent, it will continue for generations. I look at my niece and nephew and do not want them to experience what I experienced.”

The 35-year-old was also asked about new league rules banning T-shirts featuring political messages, and whether he will defy the ban.

“If I believe it is important enough, I will. I will do it again,” he says. “Every weekend that I arrive we have the spotlight on us and every weekend there is an opportunity to raise awareness. We don’t live in a time when everything is OK. And I remember as I went through the day I was like, ‘OK, I’ve got to win this race. I can’t come second and wear this top.’ So I remember racing my heart out, pushing with every ounce for first place and I remember getting that win and I was like, ‘OK. I’m here for you, Breonna.’ And I put that shirt on and in the 70 years of our sport, no one’s ever stood up there for anything but themselves. And I was standing up there for someone else.”

Lewis Hamilton. Photo: Misan Harriman for British GQ
Lewis Hamilton. Photo: Misan Harriman for British GQ

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Talking about his driving, the seven-time World Drivers’ Champion sees plenty of road ahead.

“My skills are getting sharper – my intuition and understanding of strategy, my understanding of my tires… I’m getting stronger and I didn’t expect that,” Hamilton says. “And I didn’t know at what point I was going to plateau, but I’m realizing that I’m getting better and that is a great feeling. But it doesn’t come without the hard work. There’s no coincidence that I’m driving the way I am. And, of course, we do live now in a sport where there’s such a gap between all the teams. And people try to devalue what I do because of the machine that I have, so without doubt, I would love to have everyone in the same car, with a track that enables you to really, really race.”