SIX-TIME F1 World Champion Lewis Hamilton has founded a racing team, X44, which will take part in the upcoming Extreme E electric off-road series.
The team is named after Hamilton’s number in F1, the ‘X’ presumably a nod to the upcoming series, which will take place in some of the world’s most remote and environmentally damaged places to bring focus to climate change.
Due to his own commitments to Mercedes and F1 (i.e. breaking all the records he can get his hands on), Hamilton won’t be climbing behind the wheel of Extreme E’s Odyssey 21 car himself, or be involved in the day-to-day running of the team. Rather, he will use his 14 seasons of F1 experience — and further years on the lower rungs of the sport — to create a “dedicated and competitive team”.
X44 won’t be the only British team taking part in Extreme E, competing alongside Veloce, spearheaded by celebrated F1 engineer and current Red Bull chief technical officer Adrian Newey.
Hamilton said: “I’m excited to play a different role in this new series, one that brings my vision for a more sustainable and equal world to life.”
“Extreme E really appealed to me because of its environmental focus. Every single one of us has the power to make a difference, and it means so much to me that I can use my love of racing, together with my love for our planet, to have a positive impact.
“Not only will we visit remote locations facing the front line of the climate crisis, we will also work closely with these locations and leading climate experts to share our knowledge and leave behind a positive legacy in each location which goes far beyond the race track.”
Hamilton has increasingly used his star power to champion environmental causes. A vegan, he’s decried the meat and dairy industries for contributing to “deforestation, animal cruelty, [and] our seas and climate decaying on a daily basis.” He is also a financial backer of Neat Burger, a vegan burger chain with outposts in Kensington and Camden.
After posting on social media last year about turning vegan and urging his followers to do the same, Hamilton was called a “hypocrite” by some due to his participation in F1, which, despite championing hybrid technology and introducing strict sustainability targets, still currently relies on carbon-heavy methods to transport teams and cars around the world.
A 2019 self-assessment by F1 found that its 2019 footprint was approximately 256,551 tonnes of CO₂e (carbon dioxide equivalent), nearly three quarters of which was attributed to “business travel” and “logistics”. F1 has committed to becoming carbon neutral by 2030.
Extreme E, however, aims to be carbon neutral by the end of its first season by offsetting any emissions it produces. Similarly to F1, it will be travelling all over the world over the course of a season (to even more remote locations, including Greenland and Nepal) but will do so via ship, the RMS Helena. Use of the ship is intended not only to minimise carbon emissions, but allow scientists travelling on the RMS Helena to carry out research benefitting the locations visited.
The locations visited highlight the biggest elements of the climate crisis, including melting ice caps, deforestation, desertification and rising sea levels. The first race, the inaugural season’s Ocean X Prix, will take place in Lac Rose, Senegal, on January 23-24, and will be available to watch on BBC iPlayer.
Alejandro Agag, the founder of Extreme E (and also its sister sport, Formula E), also commented: “We are thrilled to welcome Lewis Hamilton and his X44 team to Extreme E. Like us, Lewis is hugely passionate about motorsport, but also shares our belief that we can use sport to highlight subjects which are vital to the world, such as climate change and equality.
“Lewis is one of the most successful drivers of all time, and we’re all excited to see how his X44 team performs on and off the race track under his incredible guidance.”