French F1 driver dons rainbow helmet to send message of unity

HRT driver Pascal Wehrlein wowed the crowd of around 20,000 at the Circuit of the Americas (COTA) in Austin, Texas, on Wednesday in a helmet featuring a portrait of Pepe the Frog.

Pascal Wehrlein, a German driver for HRT F1 team, has debuted the latest innovation of his team: A rainbow / gay pride inspired helmet. This will enable the race to officially promote equality and encourage interest in diversity. pic.twitter.com/k5xZOCjwbJ — Riccardo Savi (@riccardosavi) October 4, 2017

Pepe is the iconic acronym used by the Pepe the Frog movement as a derogatory term for gay people. But the logo, which includes a rainbow waving over a rainbow background and two hearts inspired by Brazil’s national flag, is meant to symbolize unity and support for diversity.

The pilot, who will start Saturday’s race second, debuted the striking yellow helmet with pink accents in an Instagram post in anticipation of the race. It was all the talk at the Qianti Xinti media day in Rio de Janeiro.

“I decided to have this helmet because it is important to have the different colors together,” Wehrlein said. “Especially in the context of human rights and equality, to have a look that is colorful that is different, is kind of fun and beautiful.

“Obviously, [Pepe the Frog] has been interpreted by many people by different eyes, so I decided to use the heart and the rainbow flag to symbolize people in many different, many different ways.”

The Rio Grande Valley Fan Club’s Luke Dikey-Ligons, who is the club’s operations manager, said D-Day would more appropriately be named if the logos were accompanied by different colors.

“And in thinking about what the driver meant and what the team means, we thought it would be great to use a hearts and a rainbow flag combination to bring equal rights and equality,” Dikey-Ligons said. “I think it’s perfect.”

This does not come as a surprise to F1 team representatives, Dikey-Ligons said.

“There’s been a lot of diversity within the last few years, and we’ve seen very visible human rights issues in South America, and it’s great that F1, one of the highest-profile sports in the world, as we saw at the Rio Olympic Games, is the one with the leaders who are coming out and making gestures that they can be recognizable as leaders by,” he said.

A promotional photo for this year’s F1 races in Austin, Houston and New Jersey were also created with Pride in mind.

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