Formula One drivers came together to take a knee in support of the Black Lives Matter movement ahead of the season-opening Austrian Grand Prix on Sunday. All 20 drivers wore an End Racism or Black Lives Matter t-shirt and gathered in the front of the track in solidarity. Six-time world champion British driver Lewis Hamilton, the only black driver in Formula One, wore a Black Lives Matter t-shirt.
Drivers had been divided over whether to take a knee in the moments leading up to the race. Fourteen of the drivers took the knee while six others did not.
It had been reported that the drivers had been hesitant to make the gesture in support of the social justice issue due to the political stances of the Black Lives Matter organization. Drivers, including Ferrari’s Charles Leclerc and Red Bull’s Max Verstappen, opted to remain standing while Hamilton knelt in support of the campaign.
Hamilton has spoken out many times about racism in recent weeks following George Floyd’s murder. He attended a Black Lives Matter movement march in London and is currently setting up a commission to increase diversity in car racing. He came fourth, and after the race he thanked those who kneeled along with him.
Hamilton also empathized with those who did not kneel.
“But whether or not you kneel or do not kneel, that’s not going to change the world. It’s a much, much bigger issue across the world than something as little as that,” he said.
He also raced in a new black Mercedes designed to carry the fight against racism. Mercedes usually races in silver, but they unveiled the new black design called the Black Arrow, and Hamilton got the honor to race in it. He also wore black overalls with his teammate, Valtteri Bottas.
Verstappen, Leclerc Take to Twitter
Many of the drivers who did not take action explained on Twitter why they opted to stand during the time. Charles Leclerc clarified in a tweet that he is as committed to fight against racism even though he did not take the knee. Max Verstappen echoed his feelings through social media as well.
“I am very committed to equality and the fight against racism,” he wrote. “But I believe everyone has the right to express themselves at a time and in a way that suits them. I will not take the knee today but respect and support the personal choice every driver makes.”
Formula One Takes a Stand of their Own
At a time of ongoing protests around the world against racial injustice, Formula One was extremely vocal in its anti-racism messages throughout the race. The organization posted on social media,
“End Racism. One cause. One commitment. As individuals, we choose our own way to support the cause. As a group of drivers and a wider F1 family, we are united in its goal.”
Formula One’s governing body, Federation Internationale de l’Automobile, insisted that it is not the sporting federation’s job to instruct drives on the political decision and that it leaves the drivers alone in that regard to make up their own mind. They also announced that they are donating one million euros to improve diversity in motorsports.