Lewis Hamilton has revealed he was warned of “potential consequences” for racing with a helmet paying tribute to Colin Kaepernick.
Amid ongoing activism against racism around the world, Hamilton has been the leading voice in F1 condemning racial injustice.
He was joined by 13 other drivers in taking a knee before the start of last Sunday’s Austrian Grand Prix, a gesture made famous by American football player Kaepernick in 2016 in a protest against racial injustice and police brutality. Hamilton revealed after the race that he had planned to run a helmet in tribute to Kaepernick at the United States Grand Prix, and regretted not doing so after being “silenced”.
Speaking ahead of this weekend’s Styrian Grand Prix, Hamilton revealed he was warned of consequences for wearing the helmet by a high-ranking official.
“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 undecided if he would continue to take a knee before the start of races, but stressed the greater importance of continuing the conversation over racial injustice beyond the ongoing moment.
“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.
“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.”
All 20 drivers wore t-shirts reading ‘End Racism’ on the grid ahead of the race, but six members of the grid opted not to kneel with their colleagues.
The Grand Prix Drivers’ Association said before the race that all members of the grid were free to take whatever action they felt comfortable. Daniil Kvyat, Charles Leclerc, Max Verstappen, Carlos Sainz Jr., Antonio Giovinazzi and Kimi Raikkonen did not kneel.
Asked to explain the decision not to kneel, AlphaTauri driver Kvyat explained the wider context kneeling had in Russia.
“Our clear sign on the Sunday before the race was to wear the t-shirts, which were stating 'End Racism’,” Kvyat said. “I thought it was a very strong already message to the world in general from the sport, from myself.
“There was another option also to express your feelings also in some other ways. And some people chose to do it. Some people chose not to do it. For me, my mentality doesn't really, and my country doesn't allow me to go on my knee. It's only for a very particular reason.
“I'm ready to show in any way that I am against racism. But the knee is something that I opted not to do on Sunday."
Leclerc said he thought the “explanation of having the choice of showing it the way you want is enough,” adding: “I wanted to stand against racism, that’s what I did.”
Verstappen was also asked for an explanation, but said: “I explained it on Twitter and Instagram. So I don’t really need to go into detail again.”