The pilots discussed how to show their support for the Black Lives Movement in preparing for this weekend’s race in Austria, with kneeling – as seen before the kick-off of the Premier League in England – among the actions envisaged.
The 20 pilots plan to take a collective public stand against racism and will wear and display T-shirts with the slogan: “End racism”, although some are not comfortable with the kneeling gesture.
A statement released by the Grand Prix Pilots Association (GPDA) on Saturday said that pilots would have “the freedom to show their support to end racism in their own way and will be free to choose how to do it before the start of the Sunday race. . ”
After qualifying, six-time world champion Lewis Hamilton, who has defended the sport’s struggle against racial inequality and discrimination as the only black F1 driver, said he remains undecided on what he would do on the grid before the race.
“Honestly, I have no plans at the moment. I didn’t think that far, ”he replied when asked if he planned to take a knee.
Hamilton called Friday’s driver briefing “interesting” and said the reluctance of some drivers to kneel before the Austrian GP underscored a lack of understanding of racism.
“We talked a bit in the pilot briefing,” said Hamilton. ” Yes. Interesting. But it was good that we were all at least in discussion.
“I don’t know what we will see. I think that potentially people pay their respects in their own way. ”
However, the Brit recognized those who have already shown their support via social media.
“At the meeting, I just recognized a large number of drivers, that there was an interpretation of a message I had posted asking people to speak and their silence, simply saying thank you for those who said something on their social media platforms, ”he added.
“They have a great voice, an excellent platform, and [I was] then encourage others who don’t have to say something. I have just described the scenario according to which silence is generally an accomplice.
“There is still a bit of silence in some cases, but I think it is also part of a dialogue of people trying to understand. Because I think there are still people who do not fully understand what is happening and what are the reasons for these protests.
“I keep trying to be this guide, trying to influence as many people as possible with him.”
The GPDA statement made it clear that the individual wishes of each driver would be respected, which means that there would not necessarily be a single approach with the demonstration of support.
GPDA director Romain Grosjean confirmed that “some people don’t want to take the knee”.
“Yesterday’s conversation with the pilots was essentially fair … we are all 100% on board to support it and end racism, none of us are against [idea] “, He explained. We all support that.
“I think there have been some difficulties with some drivers and their nationality and what it would mean to take a knee.
“The reasons why we are going to do it is purely to support Black Lives Matter, there is nothing political or otherwise, but there is a bit of a fine line with some drivers and their nationalities and how it is perceived. “
I believe that what counts are the facts and the behaviors in our daily life rather than the formal gestures which could be considered controversial in certain countries. I will not take the knee but that does not at all mean that I am less committed than the others in the fight against racism.
– Charles Leclerc (@Charles_Leclerc) July 5, 2020
Daniel Ricciardo, of Renault, insisted that no driver would be “endangered, judged or criticized” for having shown no support.
“We have heard them all, we have heard everyone’s opinion,” said Ricciardo. “We are not going to try to put anyone in danger, and we will do what we feel comfortable with.
“No one will be judged or criticized for not standing there in a certain way or kneeling. The intention is that we support it, and we will probably show it as a unit, then if some of us choose to do something more then it will be. ”
Haas pilot Kevin Magnussen confirmed that he would be among those who would knee on the grid, but said it would not be for one movement in particular, but rather against racism as a whole.
“I think this is something that has been talked about a lot and it is difficult because there will always be people who will interpret it in different ways,” he said.
“I’m going to get on my knees but not because I support the BLM organization, I just support the whole movement that the whole world seems to come together to end racism.” That’s what I am for, and that’s why I’m trying to show off tomorrow by kneeling down.
“I hope that the kneeling part does not belong to a particular group or organization, I hope that people will see it as a symbol of support for the whole movement that is taking place to end racism and to discrimination. ”
Sunday morning before the race, FIA President Jean Todt announced that the motorsport governing body will donate € 1,000,000 from its innovation fund to help increase diversity in motor sport , following F1’s own initiative.