SPIELBERG, Austria (AP) —
All 20 Formula One drivers are going to show their support for the fight against racism before Sunday's season-opening Austrian Grand Prix, although they will do so individually on the grid rather than with a collective gesture.
Soccer players on fields in England and Germany have taken the knee together simultaneously before games in support of the Black Lives Matter movement, and F1 drivers discussed what to do during a drivers' briefing on Friday evening.
“All 20 drivers stand united with their teams against racism and prejudice, at the same time embracing the principles of diversity, equality and inclusion," the Grand Prix Drivers’ Association said on Saturday. “Each individual has the freedom to show their support for ending racism in their own way and will be free to choose how to do this ahead of the race start.”
World champion Lewis 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.
The six-time F1 champion, who is the only black driver in F1, was asked after Saturday's qualifying session if he plans to take the knee before the race at the Red Bull Ring in Spielberg.
“Honestly, I don’t have any plans at the moment. I’ve not thought that far forward,” Hamilton said. “We spoke in the drivers' briefing. Interesting. But it was good that we’re all at least in discussion. I don’t know what we’ll see tomorrow."
On Thursday, Hamilton called out other F1 teams for not doing enough to combat racism, and said the sport still needs to push for more diversity. Mercedes is competing in an all-black car instead of the usual silver, while Hamilton and teammate Valtteri Bottas have “End Racism” written on the car's halo.
Hamilton praised some drivers for speaking out against racism, but he still feels others need to do more and he raised that in their briefing.
“Just saying ‘thank you’ for those who have said something on their social media platforms because they’ve got a great voice, a great platform, then encouraging those who haven’t to say something,” Hamilton said. "I just described the scenario that silence is generally complicit. There still is some silence in some cases ... There are people who still don’t fully understand exactly what is happening and what (is) the reason for these protests.”
French driver Romain Grosjean plans to take a knee on Sunday.
“I wasn’t a great fan (of the idea) in the beginning,” Grosjean said. “But afterward I read a lot of things on the subject and now I think it’s a gesture a sportsman must make to show he’s against racism.”
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