05 July 2020

Lewis Hamilton may continue taking a knee but hopes nobody feels forced to do so

05 July 2020

Lewis Hamilton could continue to “take a knee” at Formula One races – saying he does not want the fight against racism to die a silent death.

Hamilton, who was among 14 drivers who knelt before the opening round of the 2020 season in Austria, revealed he was talked out of doing it at the US Grand Prix three years ago.

The 35-year-old, cementing his current status as British sport’s loudest voice on racism, spoke passionately about the topic after he finished fourth in the first race of his title defence.

“There has been awareness on the subject over the last few weeks and we don’t need it to die a silent death and see no change,” said Hamilton. “I can be the guinea pig and keep speaking out.

“All of us, myself included, we have to be accountable. This started with NFL player Colin Kaepernick. He sat down for the US national anthem. He sat down and received a backlash.

“It was suggested to him to take a knee. It was a powerful statement but he lost his job and never got it back.

“I spoke to him before the [2017] US Grand Prix and I had a helmet made in red with his number on the top. But I was silenced and told to back down. I supported that decision which I regret.

“So it was important for me to make sure I played my part this time and, moving forward, whether there is going to be an opportunity to take the knee, I don’t know.

I don't want it to be a case of people feeling forced. I want people to be excited to be a part of the change

“I don’t want it to be a case of people feeling forced. I want people to be excited to be a part of the change.

“I want people to think that while they are fortunate not to have experienced racism, they can try to understand what it feels like and that they don’t want people to feel that way and want to be part of change so in the future our kids can lead a better quality of life.”

Ferrari’s Charles Leclerc and Red Bull’s Max Verstappen were among six drivers who opted not to take a knee.

Both posted messages before the grand prix, saying they were committed in the fight against racism. McLaren’s Carlos Sainz, Russian Daniil Kvyat, Alfa Romeo team-mates Kimi Raikkonen and Antonio Giovinazzi also stood up.

Hamilton was the only driver to wear a special T-shirt with the message ‘Black Lives Matter’ in the minutes before Sunday’s race. The others carried the End Racism message instead.

On Saturday, Hamilton had implied that division between his fellow drivers over the gesture, which is associated with the Black Lives Matter movement, is further proof of racism in the sport.

“Nobody should be forced into a scenario where they have to kneel,” he said on Sunday.

Valtteri Bottas won the opening race of the season (AP)

“I never requested or demanded for anyone to take a knee. I never brought it up. It was brought up by F1 and the GPDA [Grand Prix Drivers’ Association].

“Sebastian Vettel and Romain Grosjean asked the drivers and there were several who said they wouldn’t do it.

“I am really grateful for those who did it along with me. It is a powerful message but whether you kneel or do not kneel, that is not going to change the world. It is a bigger issue than that.”

Hamilton added on Twitter after the race: “Today was an important moment for me and all the people out there who are working for and hoping for change. For a more equal and just society.

“I may get criticism in the media and elsewhere, but this fight is about equality, not politics or promotion. To me it was an emotional and poignant chapter in the progress of making F1 a more diverse and inclusive sport.

“I want a better future for our generation and the ones after us. There is so much that needs to be done.

“No one is perfect but if we all chip in and do our part, we can see change. I truly believe that.

“Thank you to my team for their incredible support and hard work this weekend and thank you to all who supported. Let’s keep pushing, guys. See you next week. Love. #EndRacism #BlackLivesMatter”.

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