Lewis Hamilton: ‘Lack of understanding’ of the issue of racism – BBC Sport

Lewis Hamilton and Valtteri Bottas
The Austrian Grand Prix is live on BBC Radio 5 Live Sports Extra and BBC Sport website this weekend

Lewis Hamilton says some drivers’ reluctance to take a knee before the Austrian Grand Prix is down to a lack of understanding of racism.

F1 drivers will take a collective stance against racism before Sunday’s season-opening race, but some are not comfortable with the kneeling gesture.

Hamilton said he had made his point to the drivers at a meeting on Friday.

“I described the scenario that silence is really generally complicit. There is some silence in some cases,” he said.

World champion Hamilton 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.”

BBC Sport reported earlier on Saturday that while the drivers were united in their opposition to racism, a minority had misgivings about taking a knee before the race.

This is partly because of the political connotations of the gesture in some countries, and partly because some did not appreciate what they saw as Hamilton’s accusatory tone in his social media messages asking other senior figures in the sport to issue anti-racist statements following the death in police custody of George Floyd, an unarmed black man, in the US on 25 May.

Alex Wurz Twitter
Alex Wurz, chairman of the Grand Prix Drivers’ Association (GPDA), tweeted a statement on behalf of the 20 drivers before Sunday’s race

Briton Hamilton, 35, said this week he was not accusing the drivers specifically, but rather the industry at large.

After qualifying second to Mercedes team-mate Valtteri Bottas at the Red Bull Ring on Saturday, he said: “In the meeting I acknowledged to a lot of drivers that there was an interpretation of a message I posted asking for people to speak out and their silence, and just saying thank you to who said something on their social media platforms because they have a great voice and platform and encouraging the others to say something.”

All the drivers are expected to wear T-shirts bearing the message “end racism” before the race, and Hamilton added that he had not personally decided what other gestures to make.

“I don’t have any plans at the moment,” he said. “I have not thought that far forward, but I am sure over the evening we will.

“We spoke a bit in the drivers’ briefing. Interesting. But it was good that we are all at least in discussion. I don’t know what we will see – potentially people paying their respects in their own ways.”

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

Red Bull driver Alexander Albon, a British-born Thai and F1’s only other non-white driver, said: Of course I stand by diversity; every driver does.

“We are all going to take a minute to express a [desire for a] change in diversity. I don’t know what we can say or not. I am going to leave it there. It is still in the works. You will see tomorrow. We are all against racism. We are going to take it individually.”

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