Francis Bradfield – helmet technician for some of the biggest names in the MotoGP paddock – says that he’s been inspired into his career in motorsport thanks to the example set by Lewis Hamilton.
Bradfield, who is the only black person working in the MotoGP paddock, has been involved in the safety servicing side of two-wheeled motorsport for a number of years and says that growing up watching six-time Formula 1 world champion Hamilton hasn’t just motivated him, it has also encouraged him to speak out.
Speaking to The Race’s new Hidden Voices podcast, Bradfield says the example set by Hamilton at the opening round of the 2020 F1 championship, when he took a knee before the race, inspired him to do the same at Jerez ahead of the first MotoGP race.
“I had Lewis Hamilton as a role model, and that really drove me into motorsport. I got my role model, even if it only was one person,” says Bradfield.
“It’s great when you hear someone speaking so passionately to stand up for all the people who don’t have a voice.
“I was scared to speak out initially, but after seeing how Lewis did, I felt like I would be letting a lot of people down if I didn’t go out there and take a stand as well and say something.”
MotoGP’s senior management has been quick to downplay any lack of diversity within their own paddock, but Bradfield says that it’s clear from looking around him that more needs to be done before the series can call itself properly diverse.
“I do think there is an issue with diversity. There are only a few black people in every paddock and I think it’s important to understand why,” says Bradfield.
“In some ways, it’s a really diverse world, but it’s important that everyone is represented properly too.”
F1 and NASCAR have so far led the way in terms of showing what can be done to highlight the issues that minority groups not only face within motorsport but which keeps them from participating further – whereas so far MotoGP’s silence has been almost deafening, with their support to the Black Lives Matter movement limited to a single social media post before the season kicked off.
Racism must never be tolerated pic.twitter.com/W8ZfLZYVyp
— MotoGP™🏁 (@MotoGP) June 3, 2020
Series boss Carmelo Ezpeleta is adamant that there are no issues to be faced within the paddock – pointing in particular to the work done in Africa by MotoGP’s official charity Riders for Health – but Bradfield also told The Race that there’s plenty more support he’d like to see the championship showing.
“I think there was a lot of time for them to prepare to show some support for the biggest cultural movement of 2020, considering there was so much downtime,” said Bradfield.
“There are still so many atrocities going on in the world for underrepresented people, and considering they have such a big platform it’s almost their duty as a global sport to show that they have got diversity and promote that so that people who maybe think they can’t get into the sport, can.”
Hidden Voices is a series of podcasts by The Race looking at diversity in motorsport. Hosted by Claire Cottingham, it tells the inspirational stories of those who broke the mould to succeed at the highest level. Click here to subscribe to the full series.
Image courtesy of Václav Duška Jr