Lewis Hamilton says this is the “most important year” of his life as he chases a seventh world title amid the global campaign against racism.

The Mercedes driver has been outspoken in his campaigning for the Black Lives Matter cause after the death in police custody of George Floyd in May.

Hamilton, Formula 1’s only black driver, said: “It’s a special year and I don’t take that lightly. To fight for a championship in a time like this is empowering and exciting. Who would have thought there could be change?”

He is on target to beat Michael Schumacher’s all-time record of 91 victories this season, and to equal his achievement of seven world titles.

Hamilton has been at the forefront of F1’s campaign against racism and to increase diversity in the sport this year, as well as in organising demonstrations promoting the cause at the start of Grands Prix.

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F1 has left it up to individual drivers to choose how to demonstrate their support. All have worn anti-racism T-shirts, but while the majority of drivers have taken the knee alongside Hamilton, a minority have not.

Asked if he felt the message was being diluted by some drivers not taking the knee, Hamilton said: “I don’t think so. I’m in it, not seeing it from the outside. So I don’t have the same perspective as everyone else.

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“I would like to think just that we are doing something and [that] we are together is the important thing.

“Of course, you look at the other sports and most have Black Lives Matter tops on and football teams all take the knee.

“But then you see in basketball there are some that don’t, in baseball some that don’t, but it doesn’t mean they’re not united.

“It is ultimately down to personal choice and you can’t force people into doing things.

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“But it is a time where we can continue to educate each other and help people understand what that symbol actually means. Because I think a lot of people don’t understand what it means.”

Taking a knee is a gesture that originated in the NFL in the US as a protest against racism and police brutality.

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