Six-times Formula One world champion Lewis Hamilton donned a T-shirt protesting against police violence in Nigeria before his record breaking race in Portugal on Sunday.
Winning the Portuguese Grand Prix gave Hamilton a historic 92nd career victory to move one ahead of German great Michael Schumacher.
Hamilton finished nearly 25.6 seconds ahead of Mercedes teammate Valtteri Bottas and 34.5 clear of Red Bull’s Max Verstappen for his eighth win of another dominant season.
He also took an extra point for the fastest lap to extend his huge championship lead to 77 points over Bottas with just five races left.
Hamilton won his first F1 race in 2007 and first title the following year.
But his career really took off when he replaced the retired Schumacher at Mercedes in 2013. Hamilton added five more F1 titles and the runaway championship leader is now set to equal Schumacher’s record of seven.
“I could only ever have dreamed of being where I am today,” an emotional Hamilton said. “It’s going to take some time to fully sink in. I can’t find the words at the moment.”
Shortly after crossing the line and celebrating with the team’s mechanics and engineers, Hamilton paused to share a long hug with his father, Anthony Hamilton, who then filmed the scene on his i-pad as Hamilton celebrated on the podium while the crowd cheered him loudly.
Before the race, Hamilton appeared in a TV interview with the Nigerian T-shirt.
Thousands of Nigerians have been demonstrating for several days against a police unit, the Special Anti-Robbery Squad (SARS), which has now been disbanded.
Rights groups have for years accused the police unit of extortion, harassment, torture and murders.
“I’ve got to show this,” Hamilton, Formula One’s only Black driver, told Sky Sports television as he revealed a green T-shirt with #EndSARS written on it at the end of the off-grid interview.
The Briton reverted to his usual “Black Lives Matter” T-shirt for the officially-sanctioned pre-race anti-racism gesture on the starting grid.
Formula One’s governing body last month set out new pre- and post-race rules for driver attire.
This was after Hamilton wore a T-shirt on the Tuscan Grand Prix grid with the words “Arrest the cops who killed Breonna Taylor” on the front.
Taylor, a Black medical worker, was killed by police officers who burst into her apartment in Louisville, Kentucky, in March.
“Lots of rules have been written for me over the years and that hasn’t stopped me,” Hamilton said when the new rules were announced.