Mercedes team principal Toto Wolff has been criticised for expressing his point of view on racism in Formula 1 after the Austrian suggested that he does not believe there is any.
Racism and discrimination has been a big topic in the wider world as well as the sporting one for many years, and this has intensified since 2020.
George Floyd was murdered by a police officer in what was widely perceived to be a racially aggravated act, and F1 quickly responded.
They introduced the “We Race As One” campaign later that season, which saw the drivers wear t-shirts with ant-racism messages on them before the start of every grand prix.
There was also a chance, for those that wanted to, so take a knee ahead of races so show their support for marginalised members of society.
More recently, Nelson Piquet racially abused Sir Lewis Hamilton in an interview at the end of 2021, using a derogatory term to describe the seven-time world champion while analysing his crash with Max Verstappen at the British Grand Prix.
The Brazilian was defended by former F1 supremo Bernie Ecclestone, who also praised Russian president Vladimir Putin in a bizarre interview with Good Morning Britain.
Wolff criticised the pair of them, saying “one is 80 or whatever it is and the other one is 105,” before suggesting that their actions will make people “think twice” before using such language.
That is not all; Red Bull reserve driver Juri Vips was dropped from his position after using a racist term on a livestream, while racist abuse was reported in the grandstands and around the racetrack at the Austrian Grand Prix.
Hamilton himself publicly called out the racist abuse he had received from Piquet, but Wolff appeared to contradict this by affirming that, to his mind, racism is not evident in the pinnacle of motorsport.
“I don’t see any racism in the current state of Formula 1, I could call some of my colleagues many names, but not racist,” he said, quoted by thesportsrush.com.
The Austrian then indicated that Hamilton himself can influence change by tackling the problem of racism at source.
“He can put the finger where it hurt,” added Wolff.
The interesting comments from the 50-year-old were taken by some on social media to mean that there has been some sort of falling out between Wolff and Hamilton for the team boss to go against his driver on such a sensitive topic.
“Hmm. Directly contradicting his star driver on a very sensitive topic for said driver. Trouble in paradise perhaps?” said one user.
Others called him a “PR merchant,” and one conceded that they had “lost respect” for Wolff following his remarks.