F1 stars decline to take knee before Austria Grand Prix despite Lewis Hamilton plea

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Charles LeClerc and Max Verstappen were among six F1 drivers who chose not take a knee before the Austria Grand Prix.

Six-time world champion Lewis Hamilton, F1’s first and only black driver, has been a passionate advocate for the Black Lives Matter movement following the death of George Floyd.

He was among the majority of drivers who did take to their knee before the start of the rearranged season which has been delayed by the coronavirus crisis.

But along with LeClerc and Verstappen, Kimi Raikkonen, Carlos Sainz, Daniil Kvyat and Antonio Ginvinazzi remained standing.

LeClerc had earlier tweeted: “I believe that what matters are facts and behaviours in our daily life rather than formal gestures that could be seen as controversial in some countries. I will not take the knee but this does not mean at all that I am less committed than others in the fight against racism.”

He was followed by Verstappen who added: “I am very committed to equality and the fight against racism. 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 choices every driver makes.”

The subject was discussed during a virtual meeting of the drivers on Friday in which Hamilton hit out at his colleagues for failing to use their platform to speak out.

“I described the scenario that silence is really generally complicit. There is some silence in some cases,” Hamilton said in a media video conference on Saturday.

He added: “But I think it is part of a dialogue of people trying to understand, because there are still some people who don’t fully understand what is happening and what is the reason for these protests and I continue to try to be that guide and try to influence as many people as I can with it.”

All drivers did wear a t-shirt emblazoned with “End Racism” as part of the sport’s wider movement.

Asked before the race whether he believed it would be a problem if some drivers decided not to go down on one knee on the day, Hamilton replied: “We know there’s an issue. We don’t need an experience like tomorrow to prove there is an issue.”

Hamilton, 35, has pledged to set up a commission with the aim of increasing diversity in the sport and boost BAME representation.

His Mercedes team have swapped their trademark silver colours for black livery for the entire season, with matching overalls for the drivers and crew.

The defending F1 champion lines up fifth on the grid for the first of two back-to-back races in Austria despite qualifying in second.

The Brit was initially cleared of speeding under yellow flags but a complaint from Verstappen was later upheld.

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