Motorsport legend Mario Andretti has taken aim at Lewis Hamilton, saying his Black Lives Matter protests are “creating a problem that doesn’t exist.”
Hamilton has taken a knee before the start of the last three F1 grand prix, wearing a ‘Black Lives Matter’ shirt in a show of solidarity for the global movement.
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The six-time world champion also raised his fist on the podium after winning the Styrian Grand Prix last week, a historic symbol of ‘black power’.
A number of Hamilton’s F1 rivals have joined him in taking a knee and wearing ‘end racism’ shirts.
But according to Andretti, Hamilton shouldn’t be mixing politics with sport.
“I have a lot of respect for Lewis, but why become a militant? He's always been accepted and he's earned everyone's respect,” the former F1, NASCAR and IndyCar driver told Chilean newspaper El Mercurio.
“I think the whole point of this is pretentious. I feel that way. And it's creating a problem that doesn't exist.
“Painting the car black… I don't know what good it will do.
“I've met drivers from different backgrounds, races, and I've always welcomed them with open arms. In motor racing it doesn't matter what colour you are; you have to earn your place with results, and that's the same for everyone.”
Andretti also discussed the scandal in NASCAR surrounding a noose found hanging in Bubba Wallace’s garage stall at Talladega.
The FBI found that the noose had been there since 2019 and wasn’t left as a hate crime against NASCAR’s only black driver.
“I wish politics didn't get mixed up with sport,” he said.
“There's a time and a place to express your opinions. What happened in NASCAR with Bubba Wallace became bigger than it should be.
“What seemed to be a terrible situation was finally not. It was disproportionate and without reason. That happens when you think about politics before anything else.”
Lewis Hamilton responds to Andretti’s comments
Hamilton later hit back at Andretti on social media.
“This is disappointing but unfortunately a reality that some of the older generation who still have a voice today cannot get out of their own way and acknowledge there is a problem,” he said
“Again, this is plain ignorance but that will not stop me from continuing to push for change.
“It is never too late to learn and I hope that this man who I’ve always had respect for can take the time to educate himself.”
Meanwhile, Hamilton has written to F1 bosses in a bid to create a more co-ordinated anti-racism stance and improve the sport's pre-race ‘taking a knee’ ceremony.
Speaking at the Hungaroring after his classic drive to a hat-trick of victories at Sunday's Hungarian Grand Prix, the six-time champion said he will write an email to urge them to improve communications and do a better job.
“I think they can give us more time,” he said, referring to Sunday's shambolic and rushed pre-race gesture by a group of drivers.
“So, I'll probably send an email over the next couple of days -- and try and co-ordinate with them to create a better way.
“They do want to do it.... I guess there's not good enough communication.”
Hamilton revealed that there were clear rifts among the drivers and a lack of planning for the ceremony that is now a part of many other major sports events.