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Mercedes have announced they will race in cars with black livery and drivers including champion Lewis Hamilton will wear black suits this season, but have been accused of “virtue signaling” in a mixed reaction on social media.

Mercedes have been synonymous with a silver color scheme since the 1930s but will switch their livery and race suits to black when the new season starts this weekend.

The halo of both cars used by the team will feature the words “End Racism”, while the mirrors of the F1 car will contain the sport’s new #WeRaceAsOne message after new research by Mercedes bosses found that only 3% of their workforce belong to minority ethnic groups and 12% are women.

“In the past five weeks, the Black Lives Matter movement has shone a searching light on how much we need new measures and actions in the fight against racism and all forms of discrimination,” said a team statement, adding that anti-racism protests and the COVID-19 pandemic had created a world that had “changed profoundly” since the teams last met in early March.

Introducing our new 2020 livery 🖤 A pledge to improve the diversity of our team and our sport, and a signal of the Team’s commitment to fighting racism and discrimination in all its forms. pic.twitter.com/ZYzCsFl6Mv

Mercedes boss Toto Wolff said the team had diversity “weaknesses” and described the livery as a “public pledge to take positive action” after discussions with colleagues including Hamilton, who has been an outspoken campaigner for change.

“I have personally experienced racism in my life and seen my family and friends experience racism,” said the six-time world champion.

“I am speaking from the heart when I appeal for change.

“I would like to say a huge thank you to Toto and the Mercedes board for taking the time to listen, to talk and to really understand my experiences and passion, and for making this important statement that we are willing to change and improve as a business.”

The move received a mixed reception on social media, where Mercedes managers admitted they had “seen it all” during an avalanche of responses.

“This isn’t politics,” they told a commenter who argued that “sport and politics don’t mix.”

“It’s basic human rights.”

This isn’t politics. It’s basic human rights.

By improving the diversity of your team are you willing to compromise on quality? If the best suited and best qualified for the role turns out to be white what happens then?

Sorry but the silver looks soooooooo much better.Disappointing in the extreme.And a great shame to politicise/virtue signal in this way.

One fan asked: “By improving the diversity of your team, are you willing to compromise on quality? If the best-suited and best-qualified for the role turns out to be white, what happens then?”

Mercedes replied: “It does not mean compromising on quality at all. It means making our opportunities more accessible and creating specific pathways to those opportunities so we are recruiting from the widest possible pool of talent.”

Another wrote: “Sorry but the silver looks so much better. Disappointing in the extreme. And a great shame to politicize and virtue signal in this way.”

Approving supporters enthusiastically complimented the new design and the team’s commitment to championing its cause, with one saying: “This is a complete new level – now supporting the team means much more. This is a strong message from the whole team.”

After being warned they would receive “a lot of hate” by one account, Mercedes replied: “We’ve definitely got the block button on hand, don’t you worry. It’s been used quite a few times already.”

I always supported you since you came back in F1, not always agreed with everything, but this is a complete new Level, now supporting MercedesAMGF1 team means much more.This is a strong message from the whole team 👏

We’ve definitely got the block button on hand, don’t you worry. It’s been used quite a few times already.

Their original tweet announcement received more than 2,000 replies, as well as more than 55,000 retweets and likes.

Hamilton’s partner, Valtteri Bottas, added his support ahead of their return to action in Austria on Sunday.

“Formula 1 is a world that is defined by performance but it still contains many barriers for people who come from backgrounds that haven’t traditionally been part of the sport,” said the Finn.

“Racism and discrimination have no place in our sport or in our society and I am proud to stand with the team, Lewis and Mercedes-Benz in making this important statement.”