The Formula 1 divisions came to the fore on Sunday as a number of drivers chose not to take a knee in support of the Black Lives Matter movement just before the season opener in Austria.
Drivers were split over whether to take the knee – a gesture to end racial inequality after killing a white policeman African American George Floyd – moments before the race after seven months off because of the coronavirus crisis.
It was reported that at least a quarter of the network was uncomfortable because of the political outlook for the Black Lives Matter movement.
The Formula 1 division came to the fore as a number of drivers failed to master Black Lives Matter
Governors were reluctant to make the gesture in support of anti-racism due to the movement’s connotations with other political messages
DRIVERS WHO HAD NO KNEE
Charles Leclerc (Ferrari)
Max Verstappen (Red Bull)
Carlos Sainz (McLaren)
Daniil Kvyat (Scuderia AlphaTauri)
Kimi Raikkonen (Alpha Romeo)
And those concerns were alleviated at Spielberg when five drivers, including Ferrari’s Charles Leclerc, remained standing as current world champion Lewis Hamilton knelt in support of the campaign.
Leclerc announced on Sunday morning that he would not take a knee before the race.
“All 20 drivers are united with their teams against racism and prejudice, while endorsing the principles of diversity, equality and inclusion in support of the commitment of Formula 1 and FIA,” Leclerc said on Twitter.
“I believe it’s about being facts and behaviors in our daily lives and not formal gestures that can be considered controversial in some countries.
“I’m not getting the hang of it, but this doesn’t mean I’m less involved than others in the fight against racism.”
Lewis Hamilton was a vocal supporter of the movement and mastered Sunday
Ferrari driver Charles Leclerc chose not to kneel, but said he is committed to fighting racism
All drivers, including Leclerc, wore ‘End Racism’ T-shirts in support of anti-racism
Black Lives Matter UK’s Twitter account posted reports last week about the conflict between Israel and Palestine, demanding that the British police be fired. Those reports have seen a number of supporters distance themselves from the movement, believing that it detracts from the central issue of striving for racial equality.
During an exciting virtual gathering of all 20 drivers at the Red Bull Ring at Spielberg on Friday evening, the topic of knee taking was discussed. But the drivers did not reach a unanimous conclusion.
There is also a growing sense of turmoil in some quarters about the actions of current Formula 1 champion Lewis Hamilton, with some seeking to oppose the Brit’s strong armament.
Leading up to this weekend’s race, the teams said they would leave their drivers to make a decision on whether to take the knee or not, while the FIA insisted that it is not the task of the sports federation is to instruct the drivers on what is essentially a political decision.
All of the grid’s cast also donned ‘End Racism’ T-shirts as they lined up for the Austrian national anthem.
Current F1 champion Hamilton was a vocal leader in talking about the need to make the sport more diverse
Hamilton criticized the lack of racial diversity in his own sport in a long Instagram post and even slammed his fellow drivers, who are said to have upset several quarters
The Briton also got involved in a public spit with Bernie Ecclestone (left), 89, over comments on racial equality
Hamilton has not been afraid to call people in his attempt to ensure equality and inclusivity in the sport. Last month, he called on drivers who chose not to post an anti-racism message on social media. “I know who you are and I see you,” he wrote.
“We spoke a little bit in the drivers’ briefing, yes, interesting,” Hamilton said of Friday’s meeting with a heavy dash of sarcasm.
“I just described that silence is complicit and in some cases it is still silent. So I thanked those who said something on their social media platforms – because they have a great voice – and encouraged the others who didn’t say something. ‘
He also got involved in a race line with former F1 boss Bernie Ecclestone last week, after the billionaire controversially claimed ‘many black people are more racist than whites’.
The Brit replied, “So sad and disappointing to read these comments. Bernie is out of the sport and of a different generation. ‘
In an exclusive interview with Sportsmail last weekend, 89-year-old Ecclestone emphasized that he doesn’t care if someone is ‘yellow, green, brown or pink’ after being worn cold-shouldered by his successor as F1 boss, Chase Carey .
Hamilton, a six-time world champion, debuted a black Mercedes this weekend with a new look, designed to fight racism on the Austrian track.
Mercedes, which traditionally raced in silver, unveiled the new design on Monday, called The Black Arrow, and made its debut at Spielberg.
Mercedes has also unveiled a black car to fight racism this season. The car was specially designed by Hamilton and was unveiled in Austria this weekend
Mercedes drivers Hamilton (left) and Valterri Bottas (right) will wear black overalls all season long, while the team pledged to ensure equality and inclusivity in the team
The F1 board has pledged over £ 900,000 to improve diversity in motorsport
Sportsmail understands that Hamilton came up with the idea of a black car in conversation with team boss Toto Wolff earlier this month. The scheme was then signed by the Mercedes board in Stuttgart within 48 hours and plans were drawn up.
Both Hamilton and teammate Valtteri Bottas are wearing black overalls this year. The new color scheme remains in place all season.
Meanwhile, the Formula 1 governing body has also pledged to donate £ 900,755 to a foundation that aims to improve diversity in motorsport.
FIA says the funding will support a number of activities to “create a more inclusive and diverse culture” within F1 and other motor sports.
Jean Todt, the FIA president said, “We need to promote diversity in motorsport, which is why we decided to donate one million euros to the new Special Foundation, founded by Formula 1.
“That’s a first step, and more to come.”
British Mercedes driver, 35, was spotted this month during a Black Lives Matter protest in London