It’s really easy to assume that Lewis Hamilton is the first black professional racing driver because, well, there hasn’t been enough – perhaps close to zero? – exposure provided to these unsung heroes. It’s also easy to assume that Lewis is the first black driver to RACE in Formula 1 because, well, that is true. But he isn’t the first to actually sit in an F1 car and drive it. It’s also easy to applaud Lewis for this speech at the recent Laureus Awards because what he had to say about diversity in the sport made so much sense. So much sense, indeed.
Really, though, he – and we, motorsports fans – have to thank Willy T. Ribbs for paving the way decades ago for drivers of color to even THINK about entering motorsports. From the Miller Brewing pulling its sponsorship of a NASCAR team because he was hired on as its driver – RACIST MUCH, Miller Brewing? To Bernie Ecclestone’s Brabham squad ultimately giving a seat to an Italian driver instead because Parmalat wanted an Italian behind the wheel.
And it’s easy to get excited about season 2 of Drive to Survive. But before you deep dive into that documentary about the 2019 Formula 1 season, I highly recommend watching Uppity: The Willy T. Ribbs Story. Hear and feel all the crap he had to go through, from being called the N word a countless number of times, being discriminated, marked, boo’d and more throughout his career.
The OG. Let’s praise the OG.