The 35-year-old appeared to be the only driver with “Black Lives Matter” on his shirt, with others’ saying “End Racism”. Lewis Hamilton and most of Formula One’s 20 drivers took a knee on the starting grid before the season-opening Austrian Grand Prix, although six chose not to join in. The sport’s only black driver, who …
The 35-year-old appeared to be the only driver with “Black Lives Matter” on his shirt, with others’ saying “End Racism”.
Lewis Hamilton and most of Formula One’s 20 drivers took a knee on the starting grid before the season-opening Austrian Grand Prix, although six chose not to join in.
The sport’s only black driver, who has repeatedly spoken out against racial injustice and for greater diversity, wore a black T-shirt with “Black Lives Matter” on the front and “End Racism” on the back.
Hamilton – who ended up fourth in the race after a time penalty – appeared to be the only driver with the BLM message on the front of his shirt as they gathered before the national anthem at the Red Bull Ring.
The others all wore shirts bearing the message “End Racism”.
The knee protest was popularised by San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick in 2016.
It has gained momentum following the killing of George Floyd, a black man, after a Minneapolis police officer knelt on his neck for almost nine minutes.
The Black Lives Matter movement seeks to highlight systemic and continuing injustices faced by black people in the US and other countries.
Founded in response to the acquittal of the man who killed teenager Trayvon Martin in 2013, its stated mission is to “eradicate white supremacy and build local power to intervene in violence inflicted on Black communities by the state and vigilantes”.
Television images showed the 14 drivers who knelt, with six standing behind them including Red Bull’s Max Verstappen and Ferrari’s Charles Leclerc.
Both had already explained their positions on social media.
“I believe that what matters are facts and behaviours in our daily life rather than formal gestures that could be seen as controversial in some countries,” Leclerc said on Twitter.
“I will not take the knee but this does not mean at all that I am less committed than others in the fight against racism.”
Verstappen, who was forced to retire from the race due to technical problems, insisted he was also committed to equality and the fight against racism.
“But I believe everyone has the right to express themself at a time and in a way that suits them. I will not take the knee today but respect and support the personal choices every driver makes,” the Dutch 22-year-old said.
Kimi Raikkonen, Carlos Sainz, Daniil Kvyat and Antonio Giovinazzi were the other drivers to remain standing.
The Grand Prix Drivers’ Association, which comprises all 20 drivers, had said drivers would be free to express their support in their own way before the race.
On Sunday evening Hamilton posted on Instagram: “Today was an important moment for me and all the people out there who are working for and hoping for change. For a more equal and just society.
“I may get criticism in the media and elsewhere, but this fight is about equality, not politics or promotion.
“To me it was an emotional and poignant chapter in the progress of making F1 a more diverse and inclusive sport. I want a better future for our generation and the ones after us. There is so much that needs to be done.
“No one is perfect but if we all chip in and do our part, we can see change. I truly believe that.
“Thank you to my team for their incredible support and hard work this weekend and thank you to all who supported. Let’s keep pushing, guys. See you next week. Love. #EndRacism #BlackLivesMatter.”
Speaking ahead of the race, Hamilton hinted that he was disappointed with some of his fellow drivers: “We spoke a bit in the drivers’ briefing, yep, interesting.
“I don’t know what we will see… Potentially, people will pay their respects in their own way.
“I just described that silence is complicit and there is still silence in some cases.
“So, I thanked those that have said something on their social media platforms – because they have a great voice – and encouraged the others that have not to say something.”
A clip of the drivers was posted by the official Formula One Twitter account, with the words: “End Racism. One cause. One commitment. As individuals, we choose our own way to support the cause. As a group of drivers and a wider F1 family, we are united in its goal.”