Lewis Hamilton described “taking a knee” before Sunday’s Austrian Grand Prix as an emotional and poignant chapter in his battle to make Formula One a more inclusive sport.
Hamilton, wearing a ‘Black Lives Matter’ T-shirt, was joined by 13 of his contemporaries who knelt in the moments before the sport’s opening round of the season in Spielberg.
Ferrari’s Charles Leclerc and Red Bull driver Max Verstappen were among six drivers who opted not to take a knee.
— Lewis Hamilton (@LewisHamilton) July 5, 2020
Both posted messages before the race, saying they were committed in the fight against racism.
“Today was an important moment for me and all the people out there who are working for and hoping for change for a more equal and just society,” said Hamilton.
“I may get criticism in the media and elsewhere, but this fight is about equality, not politics or promotion. To me it was an emotional and poignant chapter in the progress of making F1 a more diverse and inclusive sport.
“I want a better future for our generation and the ones after us. There is so much that needs to be done.
“No one is perfect but if we all chip in and do our part, we can see change. I truly believe that.”
Hamilton, cementing his current status as British sport’s loudest voice on racism, spoke passionately about the topic after he finished fourth in the first race of his title defence.
He revealed he was talked out of taking the knee at the US Grand Prix three years ago and said he could continue with the gesture at races this year.
“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,” the 35-year-old added.
“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.
“It was suggested to him to take a knee. It was a powerful statement but he lost his job and never got it back.
“I spoke to him before the (2017) 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.
“I don’t want it to be a case of people feeling forced. I want people to be excited to be a part of the change.”