A Formula 1 worker who was repeatedly racially abused by colleagues at the Aston Martin F1 team has told Sky News the sport has to do more to confront racism in motorsport. Aidan Louw, 25, who is mixed race and was born in South Africa, worked as a laminator, building parts of the cars driven by Sebastian Vettel at the prestigious F1 team’s base next to Silverstone. The verbal abuse started after he joined the team as a supplier’s agency contractor this February.
“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 multiple, offensive racist nicknames.
“I wasn’t referred to as Aidy…or anything like that. I was called [racially offensive slurs] – that is what I was referred to. It was towards the end of the duration that I had finally processed what was happening.”
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.”
While Formula 1 has very publicly demanded an end to racism within the sport, this season Sir Lewis Hamilton has been forced to continue calling out incidents of discrimination.
The seven-time world champion was angered by a racial slur that former F1 driver Nelson Piquet was accused of using during a podcast.
Last month Red Bull’s reserve driver Juri Vips was fired after he had sent racist messages online.
At last Sunday’s Austrian Grand Prix some fans reported being racially abused in the stands – there were also reports of sexist and homophobic behavior from a small number of F1 supporters.
Aston Martin F1 says Aidan’s contract was terminated due to “poor performance” and “poor timekeeping” and was unconnected to the discrimination he’d experienced. Mr. Louw accepts his performance and punctuality suffered but he believes this was due to the abuse he had faced.
Aston Martin Racing said: “AMR and its supplier operate a zero-tolerance policy with regard to racism, homophobia, and all types of discrimination. We deal with any allegations of this unacceptable behavior seriously, including thoroughly investigating such claims and sanctioning any individual who falls short of our standards. In this case, the complainant was rightly believed, his complaints were immediately acted upon and appropriate sanctions were imposed in line with our zero-tolerance policy. We are in ongoing discussions with him.”
Aidan was 16 years old when he started out in motorsport as a cleaner picking up beer cups and cleaning the toilets at the Silverstone track. He then went on to work his way up in the F1 supply chain before joining the Williams Formula 1 team, Alpine, and then McLaren – he says he loved working at each one of those three teams.