A composite laminator working for the Aston Martin Formula 1 team has opened up about vicious racist and homophobic abuse he suffered during his tenure with the constructor.
Aidan Louw, 25, recently sat down with Sky News to discuss his experience. Louw was a supplier’s agency contractor who began working on site at Aston’s Silverstone headquarters in February; he helped build parts later used on Sebastian Vettel’s car.
Louw, who is of mixed race and was born in South Africa, says his harassers wasted no time disparaging him as soon as he started at the team. From Sky’s report:
Warning: explicit racist language below.
“Before I even walked into my working environment that’s when I was told ‘look if you’ve got a problem with how we speak here, it’s just how we speak’.”
Mr Louw claims the abuse then started almost immediately with racist nicknames.
“It went from brownie to darkie - I wasn’t referred to as Aidy…or anything like that. I was called n** n** and brownie - that is what I was referred to.
Louw said he wasn’t able to process the escalation of the abuse — in which he was ultimately called the n-word “hourly” — until “towards the end of the duration” of his tenure:
“It had taken me shift cycle after shift cycle of abuse after abuse, words going from n** n** and brownie to outright n***** when I am being called a n***** that’s where I draw the line, that’s where I go no.”
As a dual citizen of both South Africa and the UK, Aidan holds two passports. He says the abuse included an apartheid era insult that is also extremely offensive.
On top of the racism Aidan also suffered homophobic abuse: “I disclosed to someone that I had a boyfriend in my teen years and that was it - in that split second everything switched…
“As soon as they found out about that sliver of information that was it, they were trying to claw me down to break me down as a man, as an individual and a human.”
Louw no longer works for Aston Martin; he was let go for “poor performance” and “poor timekeeping,” the team told Sky News, rather than anything related to his discrimination. Of course, it’s reasonable to assume that Louw’s struggles were influenced by the hostile work environment, and he expressed as much in this interview.
Shortly after Sky published the piece, the Aston Martin F1 Twitter account responded to Louw’s story:
Aston Martin F1 separately stated to Sky that it’s in “ongoing discussions” with Louw, and Louw’s “complaints were immediately acted upon and appropriate sanctions were imposed in line with our zero-tolerance policy.”
The team appears to pin the behavior on two individuals who were also supplier contractors, like Louw. They no longer work for the supplier, the team said, and therefore no longer work in Aston’s facility.
The institutional racism and broad discrimination present in Formula 1 and indeed all forms of motorsport is hardly new, of course. The Hamilton Commission, led by seven-time F1 champ Lewis Hamilton, shined a light on the ongoing problem in a 93-page report last summer. The report drew criticism from detractors on social media peddling the tired, deceitful excuse that the commission sought to replace “the best people for the job” with engineers who didn’t deserve their positions, and would only be hired to satisfy requirements for diversity.
Louw’s experience, like so many others, proves why the report and its recommendations were so necessary. This spate of torment has spurned a person away from an industry he believed he was born to work in; someone who put in all the blood, sweat and tears to make that dream happen, no less in a series that pretends it can wash hate away with hashtags and t-shirts. (But only certain t-shirts.)
Louw told Sky News he doesn’t want a break — he just wants the same respect to do his job that any white person in his position would get:
“Up until this point, I felt like this was honestly all I was meant to do,” he said, “I felt like this was all I really had - a purpose.
“I don’t want to be viewed as a victim, that’s not who I am but the fact is this (abuse) is not right, it’s not just me that’s the victim it’s my community, my community is the victim.
“We’re not asking to be given those opportunities, things to just be dropped on our plate just because of ethnic origin or sexual orientation.
“I am not asking for that, nobody is asking for that - we are asking for an equal opportunity.
“The fact is I know there are kids out there who have got dreams to do this the same as me…it’s supposed to be a level playing field. It’s supposed to be the one thing that gives everyone the opportunity. That’s what I was sold as a kid, that’s what we’re selling all the kids, that’s what we’re selling the next generation. And if it’s a lie, then what’s the point? What is the point?”