Formula One: Hamilton to pay $80,000 after FIA gala awards absence

Mercedes' Lewis Hamilton gets ready for the second practice session ahead of the Bahrain grand prix. PHOTO: EPA-EFE

MANAMA (REUTERS) - Lewis Hamilton will pay €50,000 (S$82,000)to help a disadvantaged student into motorsport, Formula One's governing body said on Friday (March 18) after discussing the seven times world champion's absence from last year's gala awards.

The Mercedes driver skipped the FIA ceremony in December after a controversial final race of the season in Abu Dhabi that denied him a record eighth title and handed it instead to Red Bull rival Max Verstappen.

Attendance is mandatory to the top three in the championship with Hamilton, who felt robbed by what had happened, facing a fine for his absence.

The FIA said in a statement at the season-opening Bahrain Grand Prix that Hamilton had met new FIA president Mohammed Ben Sulayem, an Emirati, on Thursday to discuss diversity and inclusion.

"The FIA President gave his full support to Hamilton's decision to make a donation of €50,000 that will be used to support a student from a disadvantaged background in achieving an educational qualification in motor sport," it said.

"Both the FIA president and Hamilton look forward to further positive steps in this area in 2022 and beyond, with diversity and inclusion being made a key priority for the Federation."

The FIA said the circumstances that led to Hamilton's absence from the awards were also discussed and the Briton acknowledged the importance of attending.

"The FIA president reminded Hamilton of his obligation of sportsmanship, particularly in view of his status in motor sport," it added.

Hamilton, the sport's only Black driver, has pushed hard for diversity and wider access to motorsport after emerging from an under-privileged background to become one of the world's highest-paid athletes.

He set up a commission in 2020 and last year made a personal pledge of £20 million (S$35 million) towards a new Mission 44 foundation supporting under-represented young people in Britain.

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