Lewis Hamilton, the guy who got totally clobbered by Pierre Gasly in last weekend’s Italian Grand Prix, has founded a brand new racing team to contest the 2021 season of Extreme E electric off-road racing. If you aren’t yet aware of this Hamilton kid, he’s pretty good. He’s already earned six Formula One championships, he’s well on his way to a seventh, and I wouldn’t be surprised if next year is his eighth. With that kind of international clout, it’s pretty awesome that he’s thrown his not-insubstantial name behind this fledgling series.
To many motorsport fans, Hamilton’s name carries far more weight than any of the teams already involved in the series. In 2020, he’s a bigger name than Andretti, Ganassi, Abt, HWA, Veloce Racing, QEV Technologies, or even Formula E champs Techeetah. His new Team X44 will race under the Lewis Hamilton banner and will need to instantly live up to the reputation that precedes them.
Of course, the F1 champ will not be driving in this off-road buggy, instead employing a pair of drivers. He will also not be involved in the day-to-day running of the company, despite being its figurehead. Extreme E says he will “put the learnings of his motorsport career into practice to help guide the creation of a dedicated and competitive team”. Whatever that means.
The series kicks off in early 2021 with five different “X Prize” events in remote locations around the world; arctic, desert, rainforest, glacier, and coastal. The point of this series is to bring the devastating effects of global climate change into frame.
In a recent Instagram post, Hamilton explained that he is taking steps to reduce his own environmental impact, including a plant-based diet, driving electric vehicles on the street, and paying to offset his own carbon footprint as a Formula 1 driver dating back 14 seasons. As an adult Lewis has grown to understand that he can be a driver for change (no pun intended) by inspiring others to act in his responsible image. Nobody is perfect, and small steps can create large change. He hopes that this extends into the type of racing he supports, including Extreme E. Perhaps this is the first step toward his post-driving career in which he promises to throw himself fully into climate activism.
There is no word yet on which drivers will take up the Team X44 mantle, but the team will by the rules need to employ one male and one female racer. Hopefully the full team rosters will be unveiled in short order, as the series is supposed to begin racing in January, which is just four months away.
I’m genuinely looking forward to seeing this series take off. I hope that everything the Formula E team has learned about how to develop incredible racing can be carried over into this off-road series. It’s showing quite a lot of promise, and with big names like Lewis’ behind it, it’ll roll into its first season with quite a lot of marketing clout as well.