Mercedes' drive for D&I: how the F1 team continues to work on diversity and inclusion | CAR Magazine

Mercedes' drive for D&I: how the F1 team continues to work on diversity and inclusion

Published: 08 March 2024 Updated: 09 March 2024

► Hamilton is leaving Mercedes in 2025
► How the team will continue its D&I programs
► An update on Accelerate 25 and what comes after

Lewis Hamilton shocked the entire paddock earlier this year, when he announced a last-minute switch to Ferrari for 2025. His move will mark the end of a partnership that has provided six drivers’ championships and eight constructors titles – but it’s been equally impactful off the track. 

For the last few years, both Mercedes and Hamilton have been working into improve diversity and inclusion within the F1 world – and recent events show D&I is only becoming more relevant in 2024. 

The departure of the seven-time world champion will certainly have an impact on Mercedes on track, but one thing that won’t change post-Hamilton is the brand’s commitment to D&I. To find out where Mercedes is now and where it plans to go, we spoke to the team’s head of communications Bradley Lord. 

The story so far: Accelerate 25

Mercedes’ key program is Accelerate 25, which aims to hire at least 25% of new starters from under-represented groups. ‘Accelerate 25 expresses the team’s determination and commitment to build a more diverse, inclusive, performant team,’ Lord tells us. ‘That continues independent to who drives for us, but Lewis has been a massively important inspiration, catalyst and driving force – in terms of pushing us and holding us to account on the progress that we’re making.’

The reasons for the number were simple; attaching a real target behind the initiative meant it would be about more than conversations and awareness – as important as they are.  

According to Lord, the program has already been hugely successful: ‘Accelerate 25 has helped us make big strides towards diversifying the makeup of our team,’ he tells us. “[We] recruit team members from a broader cross section of backgrounds than we ever have done before.’ 

Although drivers are the most obvious, visible sign of diversity it’s the engineering jobs at the factory and race track that hold the most D&I potential – after all there are only ever two race drivers.

‘We continue to focus on our goal to attract and recruit from the widest pool of high performing and diverse talent, including through a wider cross section of universities for more graduate level recruits than before.

‘[In terms of] the proportion of team members from minority ethnic groups or the number of female team members as well, we’ve seen an increase in quantity, and in overall percentage even with the overall growth of the team in the period.

Working with schools 

Accelerate 25 is all about widening the pool the team recruits from, but it’s also worked on making sure candidates from under-represented backgrounds end up studying STEM projects in the first place. That’s why the team has continued to work with schools through the Mulberry Schools Trust and Mulberry STEM Academy to ensure more students feel inspired or allowed to study STEM subjects in further education:

‘Together with our Accelerate 25 partners, we are working to inspire and motivate talented students from under-represented groups towards STEM education, both at school and in further education, and onwards to technical careers,’ Lord explains. ‘Results show that these programmes contribute to a bigger percentage of students taking up STEM subjects, and increased attainment in exams.’ In this way, Mercedes is taking more from the top of the pyramid, but also increasing the base of the pyramid at a grassroots level too. 

What else is changing? 

There has been one key change to Mercedes D&I plans, the consolidation of the Ignite program. A joint project between Hamilton and Mercedes, it worked on increasing the pipeline of diverse talent by igniting and inspiring enthusiasm for motorsport through STEM education.

‘Ignite was a partnership where the team and Lewis were committing equal funding and working together on joint diversity initiatives,’ Lord tells us. ‘It was decided in late 2022 that for maximum effectiveness and impact, we would fold Ignite and the projects that Ignite was currently funding, into Mission 44.’

‘We realised we had three things: The team’s internal work, joint work and Mission 44 (Hamilton’s own D&I organisation). So it’s just an efficiency and rationalising of it rather than any lowering of the level of ambition.’

Wider diversity and inclusion in F1

Over the years, cars have evolved to sprout wings, moved from ground-effect wedges to the wing-covered race cars of 2020 – and then back to the ground-effect all over again. Yet, the core of F1 has consistently focused on achieving peak performance. Is this what F1 is all about? The answer is yes, and in two different ways.

Firstly, diversity and inclusion work has real benefits in performance: ‘We strongly believe diversity drives innovation and that’s making us a better team as well and an overall more performant one,’ Lord explains. ‘Diversity of background and more points of perspective, are all incredibly important for continuing to improve and drive performance forward across all the areas in which we operate.’

There are lots of other factors that determine track performance – it’s not just the composition of your workforce – but we believe we are becoming a stronger team as a result.’

What’s more, the sport needs to modernise. 2024 F1 is a bigger business than ever before, with shows like Drive to Survive helping to fuel an explosion in popularity – especially in North America and the Middle East. If F1 wants to continue attracting and engaging more eyeballs globally, it’ll need to reflect the people it wants to bring in. With that in mind, it’ll need to be and look like a more inclusive sport. 

So, what’s next? 

Accelerate 25 will end in late 2025, and after that it still remains to be seen where Mercedes’ D&I efforts will go. It’s not lost on Lord however, with Brackley (the team’s HQ along with Brixworth) and Mercedes worldwide already working on what the next step for the brand is:

‘We have exceeded this [Accelerate 25] target and there’s work ongoing internally at the moment to define the next phase of action to continue to build on the work that we’ve begun in that period,’ Lord explains. What shape it’ll take is to be confirmed. ‘We are not there yet,’ Lord said of confirming the new goal, ‘but we’re conscious that this programme effectively runs to the end of 25.’

Expect more from Mercedes towards the end of the year. 

By Curtis Moldrich

CAR's Digital Editor, F1 and sim-racing enthusiast. Partial to clever tech and sports bikes