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F1’s Hamilton to launch Extreme E team

Lewis Hamilton
Hamilton is bidding for a record-equalling F1 world title this year

Six-time Formula 1 world champion Lewis Hamilton will enter a team in the new Extreme E racing series.

Briton Hamilton, 35, said the new climate-aware sport, which is scheduled to begin in January 2021, appealed “because of its environmental focus”.

His X44 team will race electric SUVs at five remote locations to “highlight subjects vital to the world”.

The series will be streamed live on the BBC iPlayer, Red Button and BBC Sport website.

“Every single one of us has the power to make a difference, and it means so much to me that I can use my love of racing, together with my love for our planet, to have a positive impact,” said Hamilton – who will not race himself, but will “help guide a dedicated team”.

This is the first time Hamilton has ventured into another type of motorsport since making his F1 debut for McLaren in 2007.

He has since won 89 races, and is widely regarded as one of the greatest drivers of all time.

Hamilton’s X44 team – named after his car number at Mercedes – will compete against nine other entrants, including the Veloce team of which F1 design guru Adrian Newey is one of the lead figures.

New Extreme E climate-aware SUV unleashed

Extreme E was launched in January 2019, with its first race due to take place in Dakar on 23 January.

There will be five races, each across two days, in Senegal, Saudi Arabia, France, Greenland and Brazil.

Each circuit will be designed in these remote areas, and races will take place over two laps of approximately 16km.

Teams – comprising one male and one female driver – race head to head.

Alejandro Agag, founder and CEO of Extreme E, said: “We are thrilled to welcome Lewis Hamilton and his X44 team to Extreme E.

“Like us, Lewis is hugely passionate about motorsport, but also shares our belief that we can use sport to highlight climate change and equality.

“Lewis is one of the most successful drivers of all time, and we’re all excited to see how his X44 team performs on and off the race track under his incredible guidance.”

Scientists specialising in certain forms of environmental impact will travel alongside the Extreme E teams, documenting what is found in each location and implementing legacy plans.

“I am looking forward to building my team around important values such as sustainability and equality,” said Hamilton.

“None of us are perfect and we all have improvements to make, but I am excited to use our platform to highlight the most serious issues facing our planet and the solutions we can all be part of.”

Agag also introduced the all-electric Formula E racing series in 2014.

Lewis Hamilton's X44 team livery design
Hamilton’s X44 team car will have a purple livery

During his 13 years in motorsport, Hamilton has spoken out about a number of issues beyond the sport, most recently the need to tackle racial injustice, following the death of African-American George Floyd in May.

Hamilton has been at the forefront of an organised stance against racism during the F1 season, criticising some of the drivers for a lack of support, and the sport’s organisers for not properly co-ordinating the process.

Hamilton, originally from Stevenage, wants to use Extreme E to promote diversity within motorsport. He recently introduced a diversity commission to help tackle such issues in the sport.

It is not yet clear who his drivers will be but they could come from Extreme E’s drivers’ programme, which includes female racer Jamie Chadwick, Billy Monger and European Rally champion Chris Ingram.

Pot washing & for sale signs: How Hamilton conquered F1 as only working-class driver

Analysis

As organised and ‘on message’ as Formula 1 is, it is a long-established motor-racing format, dedicated to what’s possible for speed on four wheels, along with the progression of the automotive industry.

Hamilton’s recent attempt to use the sport as a platform to fight racism has left him frustrated.

What Extreme E is built around is more than just racing cars. Its USP is to have a conscience about things that matter now, and have done for a while.

Hamilton’s mind is moving slowly away from the F1 paddock, albeit this is only a small step.

He is a man on the verge of fully transcending the sport where he made his name to an altogether more influential position come the end of his career.

He knows he has the chance to do something far greater than beat Michael Schumacher’s record of seven Formula 1 world titles: to get enough people to listen to him to help change the world forever.

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