More Formula One drivers are expected to refuse to take the knee at this weekend’s Styrian Grand Prix in Austria as part of a Black Lives Matter anti-racism demonstration.
Six drivers, including Ferrari’s Monegasque driver Charles Leclerc, Red Bull’s Max Verstappen, from the Netherlands, and 2007 world champion Kimi Raikkonen of Finland were among those who refused to kneel, moments before the season opening Austrian Grand Prix.
All 20 drivers did line up on the grid at the Red Bull Ring to take a stance against discrimination. Lewis Hamilton was the only one to line up with a Black Lives Matter T-shirt. All other 19 drivers, who support the fight against racism and discrimination, wore a top emblazoned with the message ‘end racism’.
While 14 drivers take to one knee on Sunday, it has been reported by Press Association that some of those could elect to stand for the second race of the season.
Six Formula One stars decided against kneeling as part of the sport’s anti-racism stance on Sunday. They were (from left to right): Max Verstappen, Antonio Giovinazzi, Daniil Kvyat, Carlos Sainz, Charles Leclerc and Kimi Raikkonen
Lewis Hamilton (right) wore a Black Lives Matter T-shirt on the grid as he knelt alongside the majority of his fellow drivers
All other 19 drivers wore a specially designed t shirt which bore the slogan ‘end racism’ as they posed at the front of the grid
Lance Stroll of Racing Point and Nicholas Latifi (right) of Williams were among those who did kneel at the Red Bull Ring
There is not set to be a carpet on track for the second race of the season and that could see more drivers elect to stand
THE SIX DRIVERS WHO DID NOT KNEEL
Antonio Giovinazzi – Alfa Romeo (Italy)
Daniil Kvyat – Scuderia AlphaTauri (Russia)
Charles Leclerc – Ferrari (Monaco)
Kimi Raikkonen – Alfa Romeo (Finland)
Carlos Sainz – McLaren (Spain)
Max Verstappen – Red Bull (Netherlands)
All the drivers wore ‘End Racism’ T-shirts on the grid prior to the national anthem, while the FIA, the sport’s governing body, on Sunday pledged nearly a million pounds to fight racism.
One of the reasons which could see more drivers stand during the national anthem is the pre-race changes expected for the second race in the revised calendar.
Sportsmail understands Formula 1 won’t place a carpet on the grid for the drivers to make their protest as they did on Sunday.
Instead, should they wish to protest, drivers will have to find their own spot and that could see more stand.
Red Bull, who saw Verstappen as one of the six who did not take a knee, are yet to hold a discussion ahead of the second race as to whether drivers will or will not take the knee but Sportsmail understands no direction on the decision will be pushed onto the drivers.
Hamilton has admitted he is unsure if he will kneel for the remainder of the season with the Brit wary.
”I don’t know what the plan is moving forward,’ he said. ‘It’s really great that Formula 1, and particular Mercedes, have taken note of the issues we’re facing across the world and deciding to do something about it. I think ultimately everything we do is not going to be enough and we all need to do more. There’s been awareness for a couple of weeks and what we don’t need it to do is die a sudden death, and just disappear and we see no change, so somehow and ultimately I could be the guinea pig there. I will keep speaking out.
“And going back to it, all of us, myself included, everyone has to look at accountability and see what they can do better within their organisation and their own team. Moving forwards, I don’t know if I’ll continue to [take a knee].”
Every Friday drivers have a mandatory FIA meeting which is attended along with team managers and the issue of kneeling is likely to be discussed here.
On the back of those meetings in a race weekend, sometimes the Grand Prix Drivers’ Association (GPDA) hold their own private meeting for just the drivers and that will be key in what happens on Sunday ahead of the race as to whether drivers kneel or stand.
That was what happened for the opening race in Austria as GPDA members held a meeting via conference call where the statement of taking the knee was raised.
It has emerged that the topic of taking the knee was brought up by GPDA directors Romain Grosjean, who drives for Haas F1, and Sebastian Vettel, who drives for Ferrari, during last Friday’s drivers-only meeting.
Both joined Hamilton, who revealed he made the decision to kneel the night before the race, in dropping to one knee during the anthem.
‘I never requested or demanded anybody to take a knee, I never even brought it up,’ Hamilton later explained. ‘It was brought up by Formula One, and it was brought up by the GPDA. When we did the drivers’ briefing, Seb and Grosjean both brought it up and asked the drivers whether or not they would do it, and there were obviously several that said that they wouldn’t, and I let everyone just say what they wanted to say.
‘I opened up to them and I said, “Look, guys, I will be doing it, but you do what you feel is right.” I’m really, really grateful for those who did it along with me; I think it’s still a really powerful message.’
Daniel Ricciardo explained why some of his colleagues chose not to take a knee but said all 20 drivers are against racism
Charles Leclerc said what matters are ‘facts and behaviours in our daily life’ rather than potentially ‘controversial’ gestures
Australian Renault driver Daniel Ricciardo, who was one of the 14 drivers including Hamilton to take a knee, has said that all 20 drivers are supportive of the movement to end racism.
As reported by Yahoo Sport, Ricciardo said: ‘I just think there was a little bit of difficulty with some drivers and their nationality, and what something like taking a knee would represent.
‘Obviously the reasons why we would do it is purely to support Black Lives Matter. It is for nothing political or anything else… We all understood that we will do what we feel comfortable with.
‘But no one is going to be judged or criticised if they don’t stand there in a certain way or take a knee.’
McLaren’s Spaniard Carlos Sainz, Russian AlphaTauri driver Daniil Kvyat and Alfa Romeo’s Antonio Giovinazzi of Italy were the others not to kneel.
Before the incident-packed race which was won by Valtteri Bottas, Leclerc announced on Sunday morning that he would not be taking a knee.
‘All 20 drivers stand united with their teams against racism and prejudice, at the same time embracing the principles of diversity, equality and inclusion, supporting Formula 1’s and FIA’s commitment,’ Leclerc said on Twitter.
The season opener held in Austria on Sunday was won by Valtteri Bottas (centre) ahead of Leclerc and Lando Norris (right)
‘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. 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 retired from the Grand Prix, also tweeted: ‘I am very 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 #WeRaceAsOne #EndRacism
Leclerc finished second behind Bottas in the season opener, with British McLaren driver Lando Norris taking his first ever podium in third, ahead of Hamilton, who was hit with a penalty following a collision with Red Bull’s Alex Albon.
After the race, Leclerc held a T-shirt with the slogan ‘End Racism’ with Norris and Bottas following the podium ceremony.
It has been reported that some drivers felt Hamilton was applying undue pressure on them to prove their anti-racism credentials. The six-time world champion has previously claimed that ‘silence is complicity’.
Max Verstappen didn’t take the knee but the Dutchman said he’s very committed to equality as well as the fight against racism
Hamilton who is the grid’s only black driver, has been one of loudest voices on the issue of institutionalised racism and inequality of opportunity in the sport.
The defending world champion has been backed up by his team, who have promised to launch a new programme to increase diversity within their own workforce and will also run a new all-black livery on the car for the 2020 season as a statement of their commitment.
Hamilton is expected to have the support of Formula 1 to continue to be allowed to take the knee – but the six-time is unsure what will occur ahead of future races in terms of taking the knee.
‘I don’t know what the plan is moving forward,” he said, as quoted by ESPN. ‘It’s really great that Formula 1, and particular Mercedes, have taken note of the issues we’re facing across the world and deciding to do something about it.
‘I think ultimately everything we do is not going to be enough and we all need to do more. There’s been awareness for a couple of weeks and what we don’t need it to do is die a sudden death, and just disappear and we see no change, so somehow and ultimately I could be the guinea pig there. I will keep speaking out.
Hamilton said he was grateful to fellow drivers who took a knee but everyone ‘had a right’ to that choice to do so or not
‘And going back to it, all of us, myself included, everyone has to look at accountability and see what they can do better within their organisation and their own team. Moving forwards, I don’t know if I’ll continue to [take a knee].’
Hamilton said last month that he had been frustrated by ‘those of you who are staying silent’ within the sport, something he expanded on ahead of this weekend’s race.
‘I described the scenario that silence is really generally complicit. There is some silence in some cases,’ Hamilton said.
‘But I think it is part of a dialogue of people trying to understand, because there are still some people who don’t fully understand what is happening and what is the reason for these protests and I continue to try to be that guide and try to influence as many people as I can with it.’
Hamilton tweeted after the race: ‘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.
Hamilton tweeted after the race in which he finished fourth that ‘this fight is about equality, not politics or promotion’
‘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’
The Black Lives Matter UK Twitter account last week posted messages regarding the conflict between Israel and Palestine, as well as demanding that the British police is defunded. Those messages have seen a number of supporters distance themselves from the movement, with the belief that it detracts from the central issue of seeking to bring racial equality.