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F1 worker suffered racist and homophobic abuse while at Aston Martin

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Formula 1 worker Aidan Louw tells Sky News he was subjected to racist and homophobic abuse while working at Aston Martin. (Warning: Video contains content which may be upsetting, offensive and triggering to some users)

Formula 1 worker Aidan Louw tells Sky News he was subjected to racist and homophobic abuse while working at Aston Martin. (Warning: Video contains content which may be upsetting, offensive and triggering to some users)

A Formula 1 worker who was repeatedly racially abused by colleagues at the Aston Martin F1 team has told Sky News the sport has to do more to confront racism in motorsport.

Aidan Louw, 25, who is mixed race and was born in South Africa, worked as a laminator, building parts of the cars driven by Sebastian Vettel at the prestigious F1 team’s base next to Silverstone.

The verbal abuse started after he joined the team as a supplier’s agency contractor this February.

“Before I even walked into my working environment that’s when I was told, ‘look if you’ve got a problem with how we speak here, it’s just how we speak’.”

Mr Louw claims the abuse then started almost immediately with multiple, offensive racist nicknames.

“I wasn’t referred to as Aidy…or anything like that. I was called [racially offensive slurs] – that is what I was referred to.”

“It was towards the end of the duration that I had finally processed what was happening.

As a dual citizen of both South Africa and the UK, Aidan holds two passports. He says the abuse included an apartheid-era insult that is also extremely offensive.

On top of the racism, Aidan also suffered homophobic abuse: “I disclosed to someone that I had a boyfriend in my teen years and that was it – in that split second everything switched…

“As soon as they found out about that sliver of information that was it, they were trying to claw me down to break me down as a man, as an individual and a human.”

While Formula 1 has very publicly demanded an end to racism within the sport, this season Sir Lewis Hamilton has been forced to continue calling out incidents of discrimination.

The seven-time world champion was angered by a racial slur that former F1 driver Nelson Piquet was accused of using during a podcast.

Last month Red Bull’s reserve driver Juri Vips was fired after he had sent racist messages online.

At last Sunday’s Austrian Grand Prix some fans reported being racially abused in the stands – there were also reports of sexist and homophobic behavior from a small number of F1 supporters.

Aston Martin F1 say Aidan’s contract was terminated due to “poor performance” and “poor timekeeping” and was unconnected to the discrimination he’d experienced.

Mr Louw accepts his performance and punctuality suffered but he believes this was due to the abuse he had faced.

In a statement to Sky News, Aston Martin Racing said: “AMR and its supplier operate a zero-tolerance policy with regard to racism, homophobia and all types of discrimination.

“We deal with any allegations of this unacceptable behavior seriously, including thoroughly investigating such claims and sanctioning any individual who falls short of our standards.

“In this case, the complainant was rightly believed, his complaints were immediately acted upon and appropriate sanctions were imposed in line with our zero-tolerance policy.

“We are in ongoing discussions with him.”

Sky News understands the individuals involved in the racist and homophobic abuse no longer work there.

Aidan was 16 years old when he started out in motorsport as a cleaner picking up beer cups and cleaning the toilets at the Silverstone track.

He then went on to work his way up in the F1 supply chain before joining the Williams Formula 1 team, Alpine and then McLaren – he says he loved working at each one of those three teams.

“Up until this point, I felt like this was honestly all I was meant to do,” he said, “I felt like this was all I really had – a purpose.

“I don’t want to be viewed as a victim, that’s not who I am but the fact is this [abuse] is not right, it’s not just me that’s the victim, it’s my community, my community is the victim.

“We’re not asking to be given those opportunities, things to just be dropped on our plate just because of ethnic origin or sexual orientation.

“I am not asking for that, nobody is asking for that – we are asking for an equal opportunity.

“The fact is I know there are kids out there who have got dreams to do this the same as me…and if it’s a lie, then what’s the point? What is the point?

“There is no sport. It doesn’t matter how many sponsors chuck money into it.

“No matter what the repercussions are, publicly for me, I’m willing to accept because this message is bigger than me,” he added.

In a statement from Kick It Out, chief executive Tony Burnett said: “These allegations are extremely serious however, as we have seen in recent weeks behaviors such as those alleged in this report seem to happen all too frequently across the world of sport.

“Prevention is better than cure and it’s time we had a serious look at the culture around sports within the UK. How do we build inclusive environments where people are not subjected to abuse based on personal characteristics? Every employee, irrespective of the industry has a legal right to expect that.”

Sky Sports News has contacted Formula 1, who have declined to comment while dialogue continues between Mr Louw and Aston Martin.

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