Together, the Mercedes-AMG Petronas F1 Team and Sir Lewis Hamilton have been the most successful racing partnership in F1 history. Off the track this unique partnership has translated into a joint determination to improve diversity, equity and inclusion across the Team and the wider motorsport industry.
In 2021 Lewis and the Mercedes-AMG F1 Team announced the formation of ‘Ignite’ a charitable partnership which aims to increase the representation of people from under-represented backgrounds within UK motorsport.
As strong advocates for equality in all areas of society, Ignite founders Lewis and Toto Wolff are determined to address the lack of diversity within the sport, which has historically not been reflective of the world around it. Their work will include identifying and funding inspirational STEM-based programmes, with a focus on bridging gaps within education and motorsport careers.
Through these programmes, Ignite hopes to create meaningful impact and long-lasting industry-wide change, which will see talented individuals succeed within and contribute towards the future of the sport, regardless of their background.
The work of Ignite forms part of Lewis’s ongoing philanthropy work and will sit under his foundation, Mission 44, as the arm centred on increasing diversity in the motorsport industry.
Sir Lewis Hamilton has always been a fierce proponent of diversity and inclusion within the motorsport industry. As the only Black driver in the sport, he has long wanted to see equal representation within the paddock and beyond. The Mercedes-AMG Petronas F1 Team has been proud to support Lewis and over the last couple of years have formalised their DE&I initiatives under the umbrella of their Accelerate 25 programme (Link to Accelerate 25).
This shared ambition led to the foundation of Ignite in 2021, when Lewis and Team Principal & Co-Owner created the charitable partnership with the aim to create and strengthen pathways within UK motorsport for people from under-represented and disadvantaged backgrounds. Their work will include identifying and funding inspirational STEM-based programmes, with a focus on bridging gaps within education and motorsport careers.
Ignite will form part of Lewis’ wider philanthropy and will sit under the umbrella of his charitable foundation, Mission 44, with a specific focus on addressing the lack of diversity within motorsport.
To support its mission to increase diversity and inclusion within the UK motorsport industry, Ignite will implement activity focused on;
Helping to broaden talent pools by supporting the development of ‘team members of tomorrow’.
Inspiring and supporting underrepresented groups in schools and universities to ensure they have opportunities to follow STEM subjects and, ultimately, engineering careers.
Dedicating support towards developing meaningful career paths for under-represented groups in motorsport.
Lewis has been a member of the Mercedes family since he was 13 years of age, and Mercedes has always supported his ambition to make the motorsport industry a more diverse and inclusive place. This passion extends beyond increasing the number of drivers from non-traditional backgrounds, but also to roles within engineering as well. Together in the last year the Team have worked on a number of projects to address underrepresentation throughout motorsport. Ignite is the formal commitment between both parties.
When will Ignite’s work begin?
Currently, the first collaboration is in the planning phase and the Board is actively reviewing proposals. Ignite is determined to make each project as successful as possible, and so will dedicate the appropriate time to ensuring all due diligence has been conducted before launching.
Ignite is the representation of Lewis’s commitment towards changing the face of motorsport and it sits under the umbrella of his charitable foundation, Mission 44. Its work will be informed by the findings detailed within The Hamilton Commission’s report, published in July 2021, with a tight focus on the motorsport industry, specifically STEM and engineering. Mission 44’s scope is much broader and will cover all projects which support under-represented people and will push for wider systemic change.
The Hamilton Commission report was released in July 2021 and found that there are many barriers preventing the engagement and progression of Black people within the UK motorsport industry. These barriers included factors within the education system which prevent the engagement of Black students with STEM from an early age, as well as factors within the industry itself, including:
Hiring practices within motorsport teams which favour students from Russell Group Universities.
Geographical factors, which mean the opportunity to garner work experience at places such as Silverstone are too far for students from low-income backgrounds to travel to.
Behaviour management practices in schools which disproportionately affect Black students.
The lack of Black role models within STEM teaching positions throughout a student’s educational career, including at higher education.
A lack of understanding among young people of the careers which studying engineering can lead to, and a feeling among Black students that motorsport ‘wasn’t for them’.
Ignite will build on these findings as well as support other initiatives to encourage more people from under-represented backgrounds to undertake STEM learning and ultimately careers in motorsport.
The Ignite Fund will prioritise interventions that support the following underserved groups to access and progress in STEM and UK motorsport:
Women and girls
Minority ethnic groups
Who can apply:
Social enterprise or Community Interest Company (CIC)
Charitable Incorporated Organisation (CIO)
Other non-profit organisations with asset locks to protect against private gain
Statutory body (e.g. local authority)
State-funded schools, further education or higher education institutions
Community benefit society
Organisations must have the following:
Have a track record of impact particularly working with our target groups. This includes having robust systems to measure progress, outcomes and impact.
Strong governance and management, including a strong and diverse board and leadership team. We are particularly interested in supporting organisations with minority ethnic group leadership.
Share the values of the Ignite Partnership and consistently demonstrate them in how they operate day-to day
Embed people from underrepresented communities into how they work, including in proposal development and project delivery.
Proposals to the Ignite Partnership will be by invitation only. We will find partners through our collective professional and personal networks as well as seeking input from experts and collaborators from across sectors. The Board will also consider funding for-profit organisations, but this will be as an exception where doing so is necessary to achieve the strategic ambitions of the Fund (e.g due to speed, capacity or quality considerations).
Paul Mills, Chief People Officer, Mercedes-Benz Grand Prix Ltd (Chair)
Russell Braithwaite, Chief Financial Officer, Mercedes-Benz Grand Prix Ltd
Bradley Lord, Strategic Communications Director, Mercedes-Benz Grand Prix Ltd
Mark Hamlin, Chair of Project 44
Jason Arthur, CEO of Mission 44
Jo Livingston, Partner at Freuds Communications