How Black Creators Are Revolutionizing Formula 1 Coverage
Black podcasters are paving new roads for Formula 1 coverage, much to the chagrin of the sport’s mostly white fanbase.
Formula 1 may be classified as a global sport, but it’s still far from progressing toward a diverse and inclusive future. Not only is the sport predominantly white, but the fandom also shares a similarly European demographic. As Black fans and content creators establish roots in a cult fandom, there inevitably come cult-like problems, and it can feel like a bloodbath in the rise to the top.
QuickStop F1’s Nyasha Sakutukwa and Thandie Sibanda have achieved many feats since launching their podcast in 2021. The London-based duo has reinvented the way listeners consume F1, like hosting IRL recordings and making the complex nature of the sport digestible for fans all over the world. But with their rising popularity within F1, the attention is a double-edged sword. It’s the survival of the fittest on the content creation side, Sibanda tells NYLON, and while the good that comes from their platform will always outweigh the bad, it doesn’t stop the feeling of pessimism at times: “The white masses are stealing from Black content creators, especially the smaller ones like us.”
Sakutukwa adds that the bigger they get, the more polarizing they become. With every word or social media post comes an influx of fans on the “other side,” mainly those with a more conservative view of the sport. For him, QuickStop F1 falls into “if you know, you know” territory; if you listen to it, you love it. But he points out that as Black podcasters and undeniable Lewis Hamilton fans, it can, and definitely has, caused an incredible amount of friction. “It’s alarming how strong both sides are. The love we get from listeners is so amazing but the hate is even stronger now more than ever, I would say.”
Unlike other sports where it’s a collaborative effort to achieve results for the team’s greater good, F1 racers are isolated as competitors with their teammates and are always pitted against their previous accomplishments. F1 fans aren’t just fans of teams like Mercedes or Ferrari; most identify themselves through both the personality and success of their favorite driver. According to Sakutukwa and Sibanda, the fandom is deeply flawed in that way, and in their unwavering stance on Hamilton, they’re now more susceptible to online hate and racism, especially being associated as his supporters. “I’m just going to put it out there — I definitely think the term Team LH, or Team Lewis Hamilton, is used as a replacement for the N-word on the Internet,” says Sibanda. “Some fans don’t realize it, but when they’re calling you Team LH, they are calling you that word, particularly if you’re Black.”
The hate for Team LH comes from — you guessed it — non-Black viewers who would prefer to gatekeep F1 as a solely white European sport and not as an ever-evolving game that thrives off its growing fandom. “The only reason they hate Lewis is because he’s Black, and they think we hate other drivers because they’re white,” Sakutukwa notes. “They think we don’t have any understanding of the sport, and that we’re only there purely to worship Lewis like a deity. It’s demeaning. You’ll even see some Hamilton fans, mostly white ones, who admit to being his supporters but not a part of Team LH because of this notion.”
The division of F1’s global fandom over its 70-year legacy plays a part in the harassment of not only Black fans but the goings-on on and off the track. In 2023, retired Brazilian champion Nelson Pique was fined $950,000 in moral damages for making racist and homophobic comments about Hamilton in 2021. In 2022, Estonian Formula 2 driver Juri Vips was called out and eventually fired from his junior seat on the Red Bull team for his use of the N-word during a Twitch live stream.
Cameron, the voice behind the F1 Hour podcast, recalls facing backlash — including racist remarks — after speaking up on Vips. “I made a reaction video of that incident on YouTube because while Vips is young, he’s old enough to know that word is bad,” Cameron tells NYLON. After uploading the three-minute video, the creator says he received a slew of hateful remarks from viewers who argued with him about using the slur.
“They think we don’t have any understanding of the sport, and that we’re only there purely to worship Lewis like a deity. It’s demeaning.”
“It was a bit cumbersome to see all of those comments because people didn’t want to have that tough conversation,” he says. “I felt that there was almost an obligation for me as an educated Black man and a content creator to explain to people why what Vips said was wrong. People were saying things that weren’t quite factually right and were trying to claim a word they have no right to.”
Black creators also face difficulties receiving opportunities despite their contribution to the fandom. Jay from WolfPack Performance says despite his producing solid, quality content across the board, it’ll be heavily discounted because people think Black creators don’t fit into the world of F1. He argues that Black F1 content creators deserve opportunities their white counterparts receive, from collaborations with teams to grand prix trips. “I give a big shout out definitely to Smartsheet and McLaren for involving me in not just one but several projects,” he tells NYLON. Jay explains that amidst the fandom’s complicated nature, he strives to be authentically himself, both in person and online.
“I'm always trying to find a way to reach out to different people in my community, whether it’s on YouTube or on the podcast,” he says. “I’m working to be a better version of myself, so I don’t have to worry about proving myself to anybody else. I’m in my own lane because the truth is, if I can’t make it being myself, then inevitably I’ll fail anyway.”
For Black content creators, conforming to the F1’s nay-sayers is not an option. “Sometimes, Black content creators feel they should take an easy route and bend the knee to the racists and the Debbie downers or those who say they don't want to see a Black face in the sport because F1 is theirs and it’s European-centric, and all they want to see are the typical Sky Sports commentators and the old heads instead,” says Cameron. “By doing that, you're affirming their point of view and making it harder for the next generation that is coming up. We’ve got to continue to pave the way and be relentless. I feel if we loop the circle, we’d almost be indirectly pulling the ladder out from under future fans.”
Across the board, all four creators agree that no matter the hate that comes with being a Black F1 fan, that negativity, along with the positive feedback, fuels them at the end of the day. “Whether people hate and curse you, it has to come from a place of fondness, admiration, and love. The only thing that changes is the way they give that to you,” says Jay. “They have a deficit within themselves, and it’s either because they can’t do what you do, and that changes it into a negative tone, or they wish somebody else could do what you do and they don’t want to see you do it.”
A prime example of this, he says, can be seen in how Hamilton is treated; the driver is on the receiving end of constant criticism from F1 fans who see his Blackness as a threat to the sport’s mostly white grid. In their eyes, Hamilton isn’t as deserving of his record-breaking achievements despite being in the sport for 16 years as the first and only Black driver in the series.
“When I came across negative comments at first, I used to respond to them but at some point, I realized my platform is not just me but the community I’ve built,” he adds. “These days, I set up a bunch of filters on sites like YouTube to catch things like the N-word and other disrespectful remarks so I can move on and not have to worry about them. All of the hate motivates me because I can change that energy into something positive. I learned that instead of giving the haters any more attention, I’m just going to turn it up another notch.”