Formula 1 pilots showed their support for the fight against racism, highlighted by the Black Lives Matter movement, before the start of the Austrian Grand Prix, the first of the season, on Sunday.
Before the Austrian national anthem was played, 14 of the 20 pilots wore T-shirts marked “End Racism” and placed a knee on the ground while a message from F1 and the FIA – the world governing body for the motorsport – was being broadcast.
The others decided to remain standing, including Charles Leclerc (Ferrari) and Max Verstappen (Red Bull), both of whom had announced on social media that they would not take a knee.
Leclerc said on Instagram he believed what was important was facts and daily conduct, rather than formal gestures that could be seen as controversial in some countries.
Verstappen added that he felt people had a right to express themselves when and how they felt. He said on Twitter that he would not take a knee but respected the personal choice of each pilot.
This season, the Mercedes team is wearing black in support of the BLM movement and the fight against racism. The paddock and other places were also adorned this week with rainbows, in honour of the struggles against racism and against the coronavirus.
The promoter of F1 also launched an action to increase diversity in car racing, a very white and very male sport. The FIA announced that it would make a financial contribution to it on Sunday.