Motor racing: F1 drivers may not all take knee at Austrian Grand Prix

Mercedes' Lewis Hamilton and Valtteri Bottas wearing protective face masks after qualifying. PHOTO: REUTERS

SPIELBERG, AUSTRIA (AFP) - Formula One drivers will make a collective show of their opposition to racism before Sunday's Austrian Grand Prix but may not all take a knee to back the Black Lives Matter campaign.

This became clear on Saturday (July 4) when the sport's outstanding driver and first black champion Lewis Hamilton revealed his thoughts following Friday's drivers meeting and a statement was issued on their behalf by the Grand Prix Drivers Association (GPDA).

It is expected that the drivers will all wear T-shirts in support of their stance against racism, but the same unity may not apply for other actions.

Six-time champion Hamilton, an outspoken advocate of the BLM campaign and supporter of equality and diversity, said their reluctance may be due to a lack of understanding of racism.

Speaking before he was called to the stewards for allegedly ignoring yellow flags during qualifying, he said he had explained his viewpoint to his fellow-drivers on Friday, pointing out that silence is "generally complicit".

"I think it is part of a dialogue of people trying to understand because there are still some who don't fully understand what is happening and the reason for these protests.

"I continue to try to be that guider and try to influence as many people as I can."

Hamilton has been an outspoken supporter of the campaigns since the death of American black man George Floyd under a police officer's knee.

In a statement, the GPDA chairman Alex Wurz said: "All 20 drivers stand united with their teams against racism," adding that they would show their public support for the cause ahead of Sunday's race, but recognising and respecting that each individual has the freedom to show their support in their own way.

After qualifying second behind his Mercedes team-mate Valtteri Bottas for Sunday's race, Hamilton said he had acknowledged a lot of the drivers who had followed a message he posted by ending their silence and using their social media platforms "because they have a great voice and platform."

The drivers are expected to wear T-shirts bearing a message "End Racism" before the race.

He said he had not decided what he would do before the race.

"I don't have any plans - I haven't thought that far forward, but I am sure that over the evening, we will.

"It was good that we are all at least in discussion. We spoke a bit in the meeting in the drivers' briefing. Interesting."

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