Veteran F1 driver Kimi Raikkonen said it was “crazy” to question why six drivers declined to take a knee alongside Lewis Hamilton, insisting “each individual has the right to do what they feel most comfortable.”
Six-time world champion Lewis Hamilton and 13 other drivers all took a knee on the grid just before last weekend’s season-opening Austrian Grand Prix to show their support of anti-racism protests.
However, six remained standing. They were former world champion Raikkonen, his Alfa Romeo team-mate Antonio Giovinazzi, Ferrari’s Charles Leclerc, Red Bull’s Max Verstappen, Daniil Kvyat of Alpha Tauri and Carlos Sainz of McLaren.
“F1 and all the teams are doing the best they can so I think it’s a bit crazy to question things, but that’s how the world is,” said Raikkonen. “Everyone has a right to do what they feel like.
“All the drivers are definitely against racism and we all had the t-short. I am more than happy to help on these things but each individual has the right to do how they feel most comfortable, so I think F1 and all the teams are doing the best that they can,” added the veteran Finn.
Kvyat said that taking a knee was not an appropriate action for him, “When they suggested kneeling as a gesture of the fight against racism, it was a little incomprehensible to me. Why? Because it is a little against my Russian mentality, where you kneel for your homeland, for your flag, for God.”
Leclerc gave his take, “I believe what matters are facts and behaviours in our daily life rather than formal gestures. 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 said, “I am very committed to equality and the fight against racism. But I believe everyone has the right to express themself at a time and in a way that suits them but I respect and support the personal choices every driver makes #WeRaceAsOne #EndRacism”
Haas driver Romain Grosjean, president of the Grand Prix Drivers Association (GPDA) that proposed action last weekend, said it was clear “100 percent of the drivers were in line with the bid to end racism.”
Many paddock observers, however, pointed to F1’s failure to make a united collective gesture as seen at all English Premier League football matches and many other sports.
“We wanted and we had 100 percent of the drivers united with the message ‘End Racism’, which was something very important for us all,” added Grosjean.
“Everyone has a different way of showing support and I believe that taking the knee was the right message, as a sportsman, to emphasise the ‘End Racism’ T-shirt that we had. But others had a different view.”
Hamilton’s long-time rival four-time champion Sebastian Vettel, who is in his last season with Ferrari, said he did not have a second’s doubt about taking a knee alongside the English driver.
“I did not have a second of doubt,” he said. “I did it to support Lewis and the message.”
Hamilton said Thursday that he plans to take a knee again ahead of Sunday’s Styrian Grand Prix, but has no idea if other drivers will join him.
“I have never said I was disappointed with the other guys,” said Hamilton before adding that F1 should “take a look at other sports that ultimately have done a better job.
“I have been very impressed with what football has done and what NASCAR has done,” he told Sky Sports.
“We must do more, we are a global sport. It is a step in the right direction, but there is no reason why we should be any different to football, which is the biggest sport in the world. So, we should take a leaf out of their book.” (Additional Reporting: AFP)