Kneeling & T-shirts: Formula 1 drivers disagree on racism debate

( – In a time of protests and global activism against racism and discrimination, Formula 1 has also woken up. With its anti-racism message, the racing series sends a clear signal throughout the entire racing weekend in Austria. The 20 drivers will also show their support on the Sunday before the race, the GPDA drivers’ association confirms.

Lewis Hamilton

Before the race, all pilots will wear an “End Racism” t-shirt



“End Racism”, this motto can be seen not only on some racing cars and on the race track in Spielberg as part of the “#WeRaceAsOne” initiative, the pilots themselves will wear T-shirts with this inscription on the starting grid. In addition, it was discussed at the driver meeting on Friday evening whether all drivers were kneeling on the grid – a sign of support for “Black Lives Matter”.

The symbolic gesture has recently been observed in football. In the drivers’ field, however, there was no agreement as to whether or not collectively to be on the knees before the start of the race. Five drivers disagree with the gesture, reports the ‘BBC’.

Hamilton: Driver briefing was “interesting”

That is why the GPDA stated in a letter published on Saturday: “All 20 drivers stand united with their teams against racism and prejudice.” At the same time, all pilots would support the principles of diversity, equality and inclusion. “For this reason, the drivers will show their support in public on the Sunday before the race.”

Postscript: “We recognize and respect that everyone has the right and freedom to show their support in their own way.” It is therefore up to each driver to decide how he wants to do this before the season starts in Styria.

Lewis Hamilton notes critically that some drivers have not made a clear statement. The driver briefing on Friday was “interesting”. In the run-up to the Austrian race, the Briton had persuaded Mercedes to change the livery to combat inequality and discrimination.

In addition, the only black pilot in the field spoke out clearly against racism and police violence on social media. Hamilton protested with the “BlackLivesMatter” movement in London and announced the establishment of the “Hamilton Commission” to bring more diversity to Formula 1.

The world champion also made unusually clear and critical comments on social networks about the “silence” of some actors. In retrospect, he did not necessarily mean his driver colleagues, the Brit puts it into perspective. That was probably misinterpreted.

In general, the Mercedes driver states: “There are still some people who are silent. This makes you complicit. But it is part of the dialogue that you try to understand. There are still people who do not know exactly what happens and why is protested. ” Therefore, he continues to try to be a “guide”.

Ricciardo: That’s why not everyone is kneeling

Although all pilots are behind Hamilton’s statements against racism, Daniel Ricciardo reveals some concerns about the connotation of the knee in their own cultures. Some would worry about how the gesture could be received in their home countries.

“In the discussion [am Freitag] With the drivers, we essentially came to the basic consensus that we are all one hundred percent committed to ensuring that we [die Initiative] support and racism must be ended. None of us are against it, so we all support it, “said Ricciardo.

This is not about politics, but about the support of BlackLivesMatter, he emphasized. However, there is “a fine line” in some cultures on how to take a knee. Therefore, it will be up to each pilot to decide whether to kneel or not. After all, Formula 1 doesn’t want to “put anyone in danger”.

Ricciardo also insists: “Nobody will be judged or criticized unless they stand or kneel in a certain way.” Some drivers still seem willing to send a clear signal. Haas pilots Kevin Magnussen and Romain Grosjean, for example.

“It is difficult because people will of course always interpret it the same way in different ways.” He would nevertheless get on his knees, according to Magnussen – not to support BlackLivesMatter, but to support the entire global movement that is committed to ending racism. Teammate Grosjean admits that at first he wasn’t a big fan of the idea. “But then I read more about it.”

And he came to the conclusion: “It is a symbol of athletes to express their support in the fight against racism. And that has nothing to do with a political movement. Therefore, I will get on my knees.” The knee originated in the NFL, where Colin Kaepernick caused a stir in 2016 with the gesture.

Sainz unhappy: “These are confidential discussions!”

Grosjean emphasizes that all drivers were able to agree to speak out against racism. “We all want this to end. But you have to be careful because a lot of the messages are political too.”

This is what the Frenchman says in his role as GPDA president. In this role, he was particularly involved in the efforts of the drivers’ association. He reveals, for example, that President Alexander Wurz had “destroyed WhatsApp” in the past two weeks with epic voice messages.

Carlos Sainz is less happy with the way some colleagues bring internal discussions to the public. He was not pleased that the conversations in the driver’s letter were not treated confidentially. “Whatever is discussed within the GPDA is a private matter.”

He stressed that the discussions were confidential. “It is a must that the drivers realize that these are discussions behind closed doors.” McLaren team boss Andreas Seidl also finds the debate a bit wrong. After all, it’s not just about whether all drivers kneel before the start of the race or not.

“I don’t like the fact that this important topic is reduced to whether someone will kneel or not.” That is not the point of the discussion. It should be left to everyone to decide how someone would like to express their support.

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