Six-time world champion Lewis Hamilton and a majority of Formula One's 20 drivers took a knee on the starting grid before Sunday's season-opening Austrian Grand Prix in a stance against racism.

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All the drivers took to the grid wearing t-shirts with the slogan "End Racism" and "Black Lives Matter" - but six opted not to take the knee, with Ricciardo hinting in his earlier press conferences that drivers perceived the gesture differently depending on their home countries, saying: "There was a little bit of perhaps difficulty with some drivers and let's say their nationality and what something like taking a knee would represent."

Charles Leclerc, Max Verstappen, Daniil Kvyat, Carlos Sainz, Antonio Giovinazzi and Kimi Raikkonen all chose to remain standing.

The F1 drivers

Image credit: Getty Images


Certainly it seems that Formula One has at last realised it has a problem with its lack of diversity. The FIA's announcement on Sunday that they had donated €1m to the sport's new foundation - along with F1 chairman Chase Carey's personal donation of $1m - is all part of the new We Race As One campaign. (Indeed, the drivers have enthusiastically seized upon the name of the campaign as a hashtag for social media.)

"How do you provide educational opportunities to those who don't have the same opportunities many do? And how do you provide opportunities? It's education and jobs," Carey said in an interview.

Images: Lewis Hamilton leads F1 drivers in taking a knee before Austrian Grand Prix

Formula One is still overwhelmingly populated by white men, mostly from a wealthy background. Hamilton has spoken of his own experiences, explaining that in any given F1 paddock, he may be one of two or three people of colour, adding: "This is nothing new for me: this has been the case the way it has been since I got to Formula 1, since I started karting."

Hamilton and Mercedes boss Toto Wolff have spoken many times about their ongoing dialogue on how to improve their team's diversity.

And the stance taken by the drivers reiterates another of Hamilton's statements:

It's about working together, moving forwards, being understanding, and trying to improve.


The debate over taking the knee had dominated the build-up to the opening Grand Prix of the season and Haas driver Romain Grosjean said pre-race that he had changed his mind.

Grosjean was initially minded not to take the knee but, after further reading, decided it was important for public figure to show their opposition to racism.

“Personally I wasn’t a big fan of the knee, taking the knee initially but then I read more about it,’’ Grosjean said.

“I think it’s a sportsman's move to show that you are against racism and it’s not linked to any political movement so I think I will take the knee. I think racism shouldn’t exist.

“I have a problem with that [racism] and I don’t understand how people can have a problem with that but obviously it is happening so I will show my support. I think it’s important global sports like Formula One are showing some support and creating ideas like '#WeRaceAsOne’ which is great for the diversity of the sport because without diversity it’s all going to be boring and a boring world wouldn’t be nice to live in.”

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Lando Norris took to social media before the race to write: "One quick message too before people make assumptions about what decisions drivers take on the grid to express their support against racism. We all share the same belief in ending racism and supporting equality for all. "

Observers were quick to assume that the young McLaren driver was suggesting that he would not be prepared to take a knee on the grid before the race; indeed, some began to speculate that only Hamilton would, and worried about the impact that would have on the sport should the only black driver be left so isolated.

As it turned out, Norris was merely emphasising the drivers' unity, as per the statement that had come from the Drivers' Association earlier in the weekend. He took a knee, alongside Hamilton, Sebastian Vettel, Daniel Ricciardo and the majority of the rest of the grid.

His tweet was intended to stress that whatever they did before the race, they held the same beliefs about the need to end racism - the slogan on the t-shirt of every man on the grid.


The decision for some drivers not to take a knee led to some heavy criticism but Hamilton said post-race that no one should feel compelled to take a knee.

"Ultimately nobody should be forced into a scenario where they have to kneel," he told reporters after the race.

"I never requested or demanded anybody to take the knee.

"It was brought up by Formula One and by the GPDA (Grand Prix Drivers' Association). When we did the drivers' briefing Seb (Vettel) and (Romain) Grosjean both brought it up and asked the drivers.

"I am really grateful for those who did kneel along with me. I think it's still a really powerful message but ultimately whether you do or do not kneel, that's not going to change the world. It's a much, much bigger issue."


The fact that the issue was discussed at GPDA marks progress for an organisation that is exclusive. Formula One, like many institutions and sports, has a diversity problem.

Norris tweeted to state that regardless of actions before the race that every driver was committed to ending racism, which is obviously encouraging. T-shirts and kneeling are symbolic – and often powerful – gestures but now is the time for action.

The Austrian Grand Prix may prove a seminal moment for the sport; a formal recognition of a long-standing problem. It should represent progress but F1 while is at the forefront of innovation it can often seem behind the times in matters of much greater importance: diversity and inclusivity.

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