Ferrari’s Charles Leclerc and Red Bull’s Max Verstappen revealed they will not “take a knee” before the Austrian Grand Prix, after Lewis Hamilton recently claimed that division between his fellow drivers over the gesture, which is associated with the Black Lives Matter movement, is further proof of racism in Formula 1.
But is understood that at least a quarter of the grid are uneasy about adopting the stance due to the political outlook of the BLM.
“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,” said Leclerc, the first driver to publicly confirm his position on the matter.
“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.
“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 Formula 1’s and FIA’s commitment.”
Red Bull driver Max Verstappen also confirmed he will not take a knee before the season opener in Austria.
The Dutchman wrote on Twitter: “I am very committed to equality and the fight against racism. But I believe everyone has the right to express themself (sic) 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.”
Verstappen will start third on the grid at the Red Bull Ring in Spielberg, behind Mercedes duo Valtteri Bottas and Hamilton.
During a tense virtual meeting of all 20 drivers at Spielberg’s Red Bull Ring earlier this weekend, the topic of taking a knee was discussed. But the drivers failed to reach a unanimous conclusion.
The teams are set to leave their drivers to make up their own minds, while the FIA insists it is not the job of the sporting federation to instruct the drivers on what is essentially a political decision.
But the divided grid could leave the sport in the embarrassing position of some drivers taking a knee, and others not, in the minutes before the first global sporting event of the Covid-19 era.
All drivers have agreed to wear End Racism t-shirts when they line up for the Austrian national anthem. A banner displaying the same message will also be prominent.