Formula One drivers expressed unity in the fight against racism on Saturday but said taking a knee before Sunday’s season-opening Austrian Grand Prix would be a matter for each to decide.
Some, such as Frenchman Romain Grosjean and Danish driver Kevin Magnussen who race for the US-owned Haas team, confirmed they would be making the gesture while others were more reticent. The Grand Prix Drivers’ Association (GPDA) said in an earlier statement all 20 drivers stood “united with their teams against racism and prejudice.”
“We spoke a bit in the drivers’ briefing and yup, interesting, but it’s good that we’re kind of all at least in discussion and I don’t know what we’ll see tomorrow,” commented Mercedes’ six-times world champion Lewis Hamilton.
“I think, potentially, people paying their respects in their own ways,” added the sport’s only Black driver who has campaigned actively against racial injustice and for greater diversity in Formula One.
Hamilton did not reveal his own plans. Sunday’s grid procedures will be different to usual due to the COVID-19 pandemic, with drivers maintaining their distance from each other. There is not expected to be any podium prize-giving. Grosjean said that while some drivers were not keen to take the knee, all would wear T-shirts declaring ‘End Racism’.
Australian Daniel Ricciardo, who has been supportive of the Black Lives Matter movement, said nobody would be judged or criticised on their actions.
“There was a little bit of perhaps difficulty with some drivers and let’s say their nationality and what something like taking a knee would represent,” he explained. “We’re not going to try and put anyone in jeopardy… we’ll do what we feel comfortable with. The intention is for us to support it and we’ll probably show that as a unit and then if a few of us choose to do something extra then that will be the case.”
Hamilton has “Black Lives Matter” on his helmet, as does Ferrari’s four-times champion Sebastian Vettel, and has driven the debate in Formula One. “Our voices are powerful and if we bring them together, collectively we can have a huge impact,” he told reporters on Thursday.
The champion last month criticised those who had stayed silent on the killing of George Floyd, an unarmed Black man who died in May after a white U.S. police officer knelt on his neck.