Six F1 drivers choose not to kneel
Formula One paused before the start of the season in Austria to recognise the Black Lives Matter movement with drivers wearing black shirts with "End Racism" and "Black Lives Matter" messages.
The start of the season was pushed back from March to July after the coronavirus outbreak forced the last-minute cancellation of the Australian GP.
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In the meantime, the world was shocked by the death of George Floyd. Six-time F1 champion Lewis Hamilton has been an outspoken advocate of the Black Lives Matter movement, including attending protests in recent weeks and hitting out at comments from former CEO Bernie Ecclestone.
Mercedes have backed Hamilton by changing its cars and race suits from silver to black, with signage around the Red Bull Ring for the season opening race carrying the "End Racism" message. The FIA donated $A1.6m (1 million euros) to a new foundation set up by Formula One aiming to improve diversity in the sport.
But before the weekend, the Grand Prix Drivers' Association decided drivers would "stand united with their teams against racism and prejudice, at the same time embracing the principles of diversity, equality and inclusion and supporting Formula 1's commitment to these."
It came as all the drivers came together on the starting line wearing black T-shirts before the race.
"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."
Similarly, Max Verstappen 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".
Carlos Sainz, Daniil Kvyat, Kimi Raikkonen and Antonio Giovinazzi also stood.
The act has been performed by sports people around the world after coming to prominence through NFL quarterback Colin Kaepernick.
Sky Sports commentators agreed that it would be a "monumental moment" with all drivers united and it was appreciated by fans although some said that it "wasn't united" with just six drivers staying standing.
Two of the drivers were Red Bull's Max Verstappen and Ferrari's Charles Leclerc, a duo many in the Formula One world believe are the future of the sport.
Before the first race of the season, Leclerc tweeted: "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.
CBS Sports editor Igor Melo said that all drivers not kneeling was a "bad look".
The two future stars of F1 stood up. Bad look https://t.co/5lNq7QBi5Q— Igor Mello (@SuperIgor) July 5, 2020
Before the race, Sky Sports played an interview with Hamilton.
The six-time champion told his fellow drivers in a meeting last week "silence is generally really complicit".
"Well, just in the meeting I just acknowledged a lot of the drivers that … obviously there was an interpretation of a message that I had posted, asking for people to speak out and their silence and just saying thank you to those who have said something on their social media platforms," Hamilton said.
"They've got a great voice, a great platform and then encouraging the others that haven't to say something and I just described the scenario that silence is generally really complicit so there still is some silence in some cases but I think it's also part of a dialogue of people trying to understand, because there are still people that don't fully understand exactly what is happening and what are the reasons for these protests. So I continue to try and be that guide, try to influence."
Drivers' Association director and Haas driver Romain Grosjean said as a global sport, F1 "have a lot of audience and we can send some very strong messages".
Originally published as Six F1 drivers choose not to kneel
Respect: Daniel Ricciardo; Romain Grosjean; Kevin Magnussen; Valtteri Bottas; seb Vettel and others for taking the knee alongside Lewis Hamilton. We see you. Solidarity means a lot in the fight against racism and, let's be frank, #f1 is one of the most racist sports around. #blm— Sathnam Sanghera (@Sathnam) July 5, 2020
In a manifest where all you have to do in order to show respect is kneeling, I can’t understand why some F1 drivers would not follow through. Probably too young to understand the real issues? #F1 #EndRacism— João Paulo Oliveira (@JPdeOliveira) July 5, 2020
So, two-thirds of the drivers kneeling, the others standing? That's not a united front. #F1— Joe Krishnan (@joekrishnan) July 5, 2020