Daniel Ricciardo explains F1 drivers' refusal to kneel

Australian Associated Press
·5-min read
Six drivers, pictured here refusing to take a knee before the Austrian Grand Prix.
Six drivers refused to take a knee before the Formula One Grand Prix of Austria. (Photo by Peter Fox/Getty Images)

Daniel Ricciardo has defended the decision of six F1 drivers who chose not to kneel during a Black Lives Matter protest before the Austrian Grand Prix.

Ferrari's Charles Leclerc and Red Bull's Max Verstappen were among six drivers who opted not to take a knee - although both posted messages before the Grand Prix saying they were committed in the fight against racism.

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Australian driver Ricciardo - who was among the 14 drivers along with Lewis Hamilton to take a knee - tried to explained why so many of his rivals may not have felt comfortable in taking a knee.

“The chat [on Friday] with the drivers was essentially saying all of us are 100 per cent on board with supporting it and ending racism. None of us our anti this, so we all support this,” Ricciardo, who failed to finish the race at the Red Bull Ring, said.

“I just think there was a little bit of difficulty with some drivers and their nationality, and what something like taking a knee would represent.

“Obviously the reasons why we would do it is purely to support Black Lives Matter.

“It is for nothing political or anything else... We all understood that we will do what we feel comfortable with.

“But no one is going to be judged or criticised if they don't stand there in a certain way or take a knee.”

McLaren's Carlos Sainz, Russian Daniil Kvyat and Alfa Romeo teammates Kimi Raikkonen and Antonio Giovinazzi were the others not to kneel.

Hamilton, the only black driver in the sport, wore a Black Lives Matter t-shirt, while other drivers, who all lined up with him at the front of the grid, sported black tops saying “End racism”.

14 out of 20 drivers, pictured here joining Lewis Hamilton in taking a knee before the Austrian Grand Prix.
14 out of 20 drivers joined Lewis Hamilton in taking a knee before the Austrian Grand Prix. (Photo by Mark Thompson/Getty Images)

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Hamilton revealed he was talked out of doing it at the US Grand Prix three years ago.

The 35-year-old spoke passionately about racism after he finished fourth in the first race of his latest title defence.

“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,” he said.

“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 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.”

Verstappen and LeClerc defend decision to stand

In a statement on Twitter before the race, Leclerc said: “All 20 drivers stand united with their teams against racism and prejudice, at the same time embracing the principles of diversity, equality and inclusion, supporting F1's and FIA's commitment.

“I believe that what matters are facts and behaviours in our daily life rather than formal gestures that could be seen as controversial in some countries.

“I will not take the knee but this does not mean at all that I am less committed than others in the fight against racism.”

Verstappen tweeted: “I am very committed to equality and the fight against racism.

“But I believe everyone has the right to express themselves at a time and in a way that suits them. I will not take the knee today but respect and support the personal choices every driver makes.”

However their actions weren’t exactly met with praise in the aftermath.

with Yahoo Sports staff and AFP