After another day of gorgeous, sun-soaked Indian summers, it’s hard to believe that autumn has finally arrived. While we’re sad to see summer go, it won’t be long before we’re donning our jackets and scarves, and scrambling to make our way to the track.
With the exception of Wimbledon, which doesn’t start until mid-June, and the Olympics, which isn’t held until summer, the racing season in the UK lasts for the best part of seven months. This makes it one of the most exciting times of the year, as we get to indulge in our passion for motorsport for almost the whole year.
With just over a month to go until the start of the racing season, it’s time to start asking questions about what’s going on this year, both domestically and internationally. One question that often gets asked is, will there be any changes to the Formula 1 schedule?
With a brand new champion being crowned this year, and one of the most competitive fields in recent memory, the last thing sport fans want is for the season to be interrupted by clashes between races. Luckily, the sport’s governing body, the Fédération Internationale de l’Automobile (FIA), hasn’t scheduled any official tests yet, so there’s a chance that the calendar could remain as it is. (And, for the unfamiliar, the FIA is the federation that governs Formula 1.)
However, even if the season runs smoothly, another question that often gets asked is, will there be any political correctness awareness campaigns this year? After several years of heightened awareness around issues such as gender and race, as well as an all-time high in homophobic and transphobic hate crimes, it would be great to see a step back this year. (The latter being the case in particular, as many are concerned that the current climate makes it increasingly hard to bring up LGBT+ topics in a non-confrontational manner.)
The answer to the second question is yes. After a recent spate of homophobic and transphobic hate crimes that culminated in the tragic slaying of Stephen Lawrence, the government has put political correctness at the heart of their Anti-Hate Crime strategy. This is reflected in both the public and private sector, with the Department for Education mandating that schools become more multicultural, and businesses like Deliveroo and Sky Bet introducing sensitivity training for employees.
While there’s no question that the fight against hate crime is a worthy one, it can sometimes feel like a chore to make sure that you’re sensitive to all races and genders when discussing issues surrounding the sport. The question is, will this training make a difference? In the case of the latter, one of the best guides to online intolerance that I’ve come across is the Hetrick Foundation’s 2014 Online Hate Survey. (Full disclosure: I’m one of the contributors to this guide.)
Based on a representative sample of 1,500 adults in the UK, we examined the prevalence of online hate speech in seven areas:
- Sexual orientation
These are important topics to think about, particularly if you’re going to be following Formula 1, as the drivers and teams are often open about their backgrounds, and can often be found discussing social issues such as inequality and diversity. (A quick search on Twitter for ‘formula 1′ will reveal many well-established racing identities, who are more than willing to engage with their audience. For example, when questioned about the upcoming season, Lewis Hamilton said, “I think that we have some fantastic racing ahead this year, so I look forward to getting behind the wheel and proving myself on the track.”)
Along with his fellow drivers, Sebastian Vettel, Daniel Ricciardo, and Kevin Magnussen, Hamilton also announced that they would be participating in a social awareness campaign, supporting LGBT+ causes, and raising awareness around mental health issues. (And if that’s not enough, the top five Formula 1 drivers in the world have committed to giving all their earnings from endorsements this year to mental health charities.)
It’s great to see established stars across the sporting world taking a stand against intolerance, but we shouldn’t get too hopeful, as even the most well-intentioned person can still have a problematic attitude towards issues such as race and gender. Just take a quick glance at the recent history of sporting bodies, deciding whether political correctness is a worthwhile campaign, and the harm that can be caused by insensitive comments or actions. (Remember: homophobes, racists, and misogynists still exist in significant numbers, and can often be found lurking on social media, ready to voice their bigoted opinions.)
One of the best things that can happen this year is for all motorsport lovers to escape the hustle and bustle of daily life, and get back behind the wheel. Whether you follow Formula 1, or another sport, it’s time to dust off those racing boots, and get ready to lace ‘em up. (And if you really want to have a buzz, don’t forget to tune into the 2019 British Grand Prix, which is going to be held this weekend.)