Reigning Formula One champion Lewis Hamilton says his plans to honour a famous advocate for racial equality were “silenced” by motorsport officials.
Hamilton was joined by 13 other drivers in taking a knee before the Austrian Grand Prix - the first race of a season hit by the coronavirus crisis.
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Kneeling for for the national anthem is a gesture popularised by former American football star Colin Kaepernick, who was effectively ostracised from the sport after his powerful stance in support of African-American rights.
Kaepernick’s divisive gesture in 2016 kicked off a wave of similar protests against racial injustice and police brutality that the death of George Floyd has kicked off again this year.
Six-time world champion Hamilton revealed after the Austrian GP that he planned to wear a helmet that paid tribute to Kaepernick and regrets that he opted against it because of pressure from within F1.
“I was advised from outside, from someone in the States who was really quite high up, that it wasn't the time for me to be doing so,” Hamilton said.
“There were potential consequences for me doing it. So that's why they advised me not to do it.
“I don't remember who else was involved. It's not particularly important. I do still have that helmet that I've done for Colin. And I did speak to Colin about it who was who was super supportive.
“I'm grateful that I was able to do it last weekend, and continue on the great movement I think he initially started [that] so many are continuing on today.”
Hamilton said he was unsure if he would continue the kneeling gesture in this weekend’s Styrian GP in Austria, but insisted that he would continue to focus on the fight for racial equality.
“This weekend I don’t believe we have that position that’s ahead of the national anthem, where we had the space and the time to utilise the moment and make a stand [last weekend],” Hamilton said.
“It was really encouraging to see at least one of the teams taking the knee. I think it was the Red Bull team, one of the Red Bull team cars had taken the knee, which I thought was great.
Hamilton vows to continue fight for racial equality
“If we have time maybe there’s something that my team and I could do. It’s just about time, there’s not a lot of time before the race.
“But what I do think is important though is that people of colour don’t really have the time to just have this as a small moment, and then go back to things as normal.
“We really have to continue to speak out, we have to continue to utilise the moment to spread awareness, and try to continue to push for change.
"That’s not going to change in just a couple of weeks. So I will do my utmost. I’m not against taking the knee again, so if I can find a way of making sure it doesn’t get in the way of us doing our job, then I will.”
Red Bull's Max Verstappen and Ferrari driver Charles Leclerc, were among six who elected to stand in the moments before Sunday's race. Both posted messages saying they were committed to the fight for equality.
But it is believed that some of the drivers who knelt last weekend could now decide to stand on Sunday.
The Spanish driver Carlos Sainz was among those who stood. His McLaren boss, the American Zak Brown, told the BBC: "There was unity on the grid.
"It depends how you view people's actions. All the drivers were very clear that they support ending racism. People are entitled to express their views in different ways, so I personally don't think one gesture is necessarily how you have to do that."
F1's motorsport boss Ross Brawn added: "Formula One's position is clear. Racism has no place in our sport. We want more diversity and we want more inclusion and we are doing everything we can to facilitate that going forwards.
"The drivers coming together on the grid ahead of the racing was a powerful message, with people free to support this fight in their own personal way. Drivers have thrown their support behind the campaign and are open and honest about their own role in advocating for change."