Lewis Hamilton said he is in a lifelong struggle to fight racism after he gave the black power salute following his win at the Styrian Grand Prix.
Hamilton raised his right fist in the gesture made famous by the athletes Tommie Smith and John Carlos at the 1968 Olympic Games when he climbed from his car and again when he was on the podium.
“Racism is going to be here for longer than our time here,” Hamilton said. “People of colour who are subject to racism don’t have time. We have to commit to push for equality and continue to raise awareness.
“A lot of work needs to go on in F1, the FIA need to be part of it, the drivers need to be a part of it. We are going to be fighting and pushing for it all year. For me this is going to be a lifelong thing.”
Hamilton, who claimed his first victory of the season at the Red Bull Ring in Austria, is the only black driver in F1 and has been outspoken in his support for the Black Lives Matter movement since the killing of George Floyd. He had not previously given the black power salute, however.
Before the race there was another anti-racism gesture on the grid, with drivers wearing “End Racism” T-shirts, as was the case at last Sunday’s opening grand prix at the same venue, and Hamilton and 11 other drivers again took a knee. Some drivers were not present and others remained standing, with the togetherness shown in the Premier League and Test cricket absent in F1.
Mercedes are running their cars in black rather than the usual silver livery as part of their commitment to the campaign.
Hamilton insisted his stance is vital in making a difference. “There are people out there who go on the defensive, there are many people out there who say all lives matter, white lives matter, which is not what we are contending,” he said.
“It seems that people of colour for a long, long time, hundreds of years their lives seem to be less important. So it is to encourage people but some people put up a wall, put up a barrier. It is stuff that has been shielded from us at school, in our upbringing, in our communities.”
There is not yet unity among F1 drivers on whether they should take a knee before races and the Mercedes team principal, Toto Wolff, accepted their position but believed the sport had to be proactive. “We need to respect everyone’s point of view,” the Austrian said. “What we know though is not being racist but being silent is not enough.”
His Mercedes team also took a knee before the national anthems and Hamilton acknowledged their support. “We are so united,” he said. “You can see this on grid when all the team took a knee, it’s not something I asked for but it was a beautiful thing.
It doesn’t take a lot to do and maybe not changing the world but it is hopefully changing perceptions and shifting ideals.”