Wednesday 26 July 2017

'She's a powerful, independent black woman' - Lewis Hamilton praises Serena Williams for handling of Nastase situation

Philip Duncan

Lewis Hamilton has hailed Serena Williams as a "powerful, independent black woman" after the 23-time Grand Slam winner accused Ilie Nastase of racially abusing her and her unborn baby.

Nastase, the disgraced 70-year-old Romanian Fed Cup team captain, was overheard at a press conference last week commenting on Williams's unborn child. He said: "Let's see what colour it has. "Chocolate with milk?"

Williams, whose fiance Alexis Ohanian is white, announced she was pregnant last week. The 35-year-old American subsequently launched a stinging attack on Nastase.

"It disappoints me to know we live in a society where people like Ilie Nastase can make such racist comments towards myself and unborn child," she wrote in a lengthy message on Instagram.

Williams has supported Hamilton at a number of races - most recently flying to Mexico City last October to support the Briton's championship charge.

Hamilton re-posted her message on Thursday. "I'm very much with her in what she said," he later remarked. "I thought it was beautiful what she wrote as a powerful, independent black woman.

"I just think she's awesome. She's not only one of the greatest people I know, but she's just a born leader and so rather than react in a negative way, reading what she's written just inspires me and hopefully inspires others."

Hamilton, seven points behind Sebastian Vettel ahead of Sunday's Russian Grand Prix, also hopes Billy Monger - the British teenager who had both his legs amputated following an enormous crash in a Formula Four race at Donington Park on Easter Sunday - draws inspiration from Paralympic gold medalist Alex Zanardi.

Zanardi, a former Formula One driver, lost both his legs in a near-fatal IndyCar crash in America in 2001 before taking up handcycling and winning two gold medals at both the London and Rio Paralympic Games.

"I was affected more by Billy's incident than I have by most," Hamilton added. "It was such a horrific incident so it really hit home and it continues to highlight that it is still a dangerous sport, not just in Formula One, but through the whole ranks.

"My mind goes to Zanardi and what he was able to do, so I have all the belief that Billy will be able to do something similar."

A JustGiving page established following Monger's accident has already raised nearly £800,000. Hamilton was among a number in the motor racing community to pledge their support to the site with Jenson Button, the 2009 world champion, donating £15,000. Meanwhile, McLaren will run the hashtag 'Billy Whizz' on their front wing here this weekend.

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