Formula One drivers Lewis Hamilton and Daniel Ricciardo are prepared to kneel again before Sunday’s Styrian Grand Prix if circumstances allow, as the British world champion revealed he was denied doing a similar protest back in 2017 in solidarity with Colin Kaepernick.
Before last weekend’s Austrian GP, 14 of the 20 F1 drivers knelt before the Austrian national anthem. It was part of an anti-racism message which included all drivers wearing black T-shirts with “End Racism” written on them.
A similar protocol is not planned before Sunday’s race on the same track at the Red Bull Ring, but Hamilton didn’t rule out making a statement anyway — as long as it doesn’t interfere with his preparations.
“I’m not against taking the knee again, so if I can find a way of making sure it doesn’t get in the way of us doing our job then I will,” Hamilton said Thursday.
“We really have to continue to speak out, to continue to utilize the moment to spread awareness and continue to push for change. That’s not going to change in a couple of weeks, so I will do my utmost.”
One possibility could be for his Mercedes team to collectively kneel by the car like Red Bull team members did last Sunday.
“Maybe if we have time that’s something my team and I can do. It’s just about time, there’s not a lot of time before the race,” said Hamilton, the only Black driver in F1.
Ricciardo echoed Hamilton’s view that last weekend shouldn’t be a one-off.
“I don’t know what the procedure’s going to be this weekend … but of course if there’s an opportunity again the answer’s yes,” he said. “It’s not something that I just want to do for the moment and forget about, so if we get the chance to do it again then I will.”
Hamilton has spoken widely about racism in recent weeks following the death in Minneapolis of George Floyd — a handcuffed and unarmed Black man — after a police officer pressed his knee on Floyd’s neck for nearly eight minutes in May. Hamilton attended a Black Lives Matter march in London and is setting up a commission to increase diversity in motorsport.
Soccer players on fields in England and Germany have taken the knee together simultaneously before games. But last weekend, F1 drivers Kimi Raikkonen, Max Verstappen, Charles Leclerc, Daniil Kvyat, Antonio Giovinazzi and Carlos Sainz Jr. chose not to join in.
“Our clear sign on the Sunday before the race was to wear the T-shirts which were stating ‘End Racism.’ I thought it was already a very strong message to the world in general,” said Kvyat, a Russian. “I would say my mentality and in my country doesn’t allow me to go on my knee.”
Carlos Sainz. Jr. also felt the T-shirts sufficed.
“We showed on Sunday how strong we all feel against racism. I felt like that was enough,” Sainz Jr. said.
Hamilton spoke in the past with Colin Kaepernick, the former San Francisco 49ers quarterback who knelt on the sideline at games during the national anthem to protest social injustice and police brutality.
Hamilton had intended wear a red helmet with Kaepernick’s NFL number on it at the U.S. Grand Prix in Austin, Texas in 2017 — but said he was advised to back down.
Hamilton was pressed further on Thursday to explain what happened back then.
“I have the worst memory, so I don’t remember absolutely all the details. I do know I was advised from outside, from someone in the States, who was really quite high up, that it wasn’t the time for me to be doing so,” he said.
“There were potential consequences of me doing it, so that’s why they advised me not to do it.”
He did not give names, but kept the helmet.
“I do still have that helmet that I’d done for Colin and I did speak to Colin about it, who was super supportive for me to have taken the knee,” Hamilton said.
“But I’m grateful that I was able to do it last weekend and to continue on the great movement (that) he initially started, and so many are continuing on today.”