LEWIS HAMILTON has spoken of his “regret” that he was unable to show his support for Colin Kaepernick at the 2017 United States Grand Prix.
Formula 1 drivers wore anti-racism shirts ahead of the 2020 season opener in Austria and many took a knee on the grid.
As the only black driver in F1, 35-year-old Hamilton has led the way in pushing the sport to commit to stronger messages and actions against racism.
And after taking a knee on Sunday, the Mercedes driver paid tribute to Kaepernick for establishing the gesture.
Hamilton also revealed that he had been “silenced” and “told to back down” when planning a tribute to the NFL player three years ago.
He said: “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.
“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…
I was silenced and told to back down. I supported that decision which I regret.”
“I spoke to him before the  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.”
Kaepernick first sat down for the United States national anthem during a pre-season game in 2016, in protest against racial injustice and police brutality across the country.
The quarterback then knelt for the anthem in every one of San Francisco 49ers’ matches that season – amid much criticism.
NFL commissioner Roger Goodell recently apologised to Kaepernick for American football’s response to the protest, after the player was ostracized by team owners and the sport’s senior figures.
Kaepernick filed a grievance against NFL in 2017, claiming collusion as no teams signed him after he parted ways with the 49ers. The two parties settled in 2019.