Lewis Hamilton has hit back at Mario Andretti after the 1978 world champion accused him of being “militant” and “pretentious” in his stance against racism.
Andretti also said Hamilton is “creating a problem that doesn’t exist.”
Hamilton, the only Black driver in F1 history, has been vocal in his support of the Black Lives Matter movement and has criticised the sport for its “rushed” and disorganised anti-racism protest ahead of the Hungarian Grand Prix. The six-time world champion has called on Formula One and racing’s governing body to take the lead on organising future protests.
Racing legend Andretti, America’s most recent F1 champion and a winner of the Indy 500, thinks Hamilton has gone too far in pushing the message.
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“I wish politics didn’t get mixed up with sport,” Andretti told Chilean newspaper El Mercurio last week. “There’s a time and a place to express your opinions. What happened in NASCAR with Bubba Wallace became bigger than it should be.
“What seemed to be a terrible situation was finally not. It was disproportionate and without reason. That happens when you think about politics before anything else.”
Andretti said Hamilton should not complain as he has been accepted in F1 regardless of his ethnicity and accused the Mercedes driver of “pretentiousness.”
Asked about Hamilton’s efforts to keep the issue at the forefront of conversation, Andretti said: “It’s the same thing. I have a lot of respect for Lewis, but why become a militant? He’s always been accepted and he’s earned everyone’s respect.
“I think the whole point of this is pretentious. I feel that way. And it’s creating a problem that doesn’t exist.
“Painting the car black … I don’t know what good it will do.
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“I’ve met drivers from different backgrounds, races, and I’ve always welcomed them with open arms. In motor racing it doesn’t matter what color you are; you have to earn your place with results, and that’s the same for everyone.”
Andretti added: “Yes, they are a minority, but it’s not that they’re not welcome.
“I don’t know how to explain it, but there have already been black drivers in Indy, NASCAR and they have always been welcome, I’m even friends with some of them to this day.
“I don’t know what’s wrong. Yes, maybe there is little diversity, but it’s not because they are discriminated against. That’s the point.”
Writing on Instagram on Monday, Hamilton hit back at Andretti.
“This is disappointing but unfortunately a reality that some of the older generation who still have a voice today cannot get out of their own way and acknowledge there is a problem. Again, this is plain ignorance but that will not stop me from continuing to push for change.
“It is never too late to learn and I hope that this man who I’ve always had respect for can take the time to educate himself.”
In a follow-up post to his stories, Hamilton shared a screenshot of the headline: “Sir Jackie Stewart denis F1 has major racism issue amid Lewis Hamilton’s fight for equality.”
Hamilton wrote underneath: “Again, another one. Just disappointing.”