Lewis Hamilton has insisted that he will not force his fellow F1 drivers to take a knee after six drivers declined to take a stance ahead of the Austrian Grand Prix on Sunday.
Hamilton was seen sporting a ‘Black Lives Matter’ t-shirt while all other drivers wore t-shirts with the quote ‘end racism’.
Hamilton, the first and only black F1 driver, took a knee, which was reciprocated by all but Charles Leclerc, Max Verstappen, Carlos Sainz, Daniil Kvyat, Antonio Giovinazzi and former world champion Kimi Raikkonen.
But Hamilton has praised his fellow drivers for backing the anti-racism campaign and said he doesn’t plan on lecturing or forcing them to do anything they don’t feel comfortable doing.
“Nobody should be forced into a scenario where they have to kneel,” Hamilton, 35, said.
“I never requested or demanded for anyone to take a knee. I never brought it up. It was brought up by F1 and the GPDA [Grand Prix Drivers’ Association]. Sebastian Vettel and Romain Grosjean asked the drivers and there were several who said they wouldn’t do it.
“I am really grateful for those who did it along with me. It is a powerful message but whether you kneel or do not kneel, that is not going to change the world. It is a bigger issue than that.”
Ferrari driver Leclerc, who finished second in the race, had earlier explained his reasons behind not taking the symbolic stand with Hamilton.
“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.
“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.”
Red Bull’s Verstappen spoke out on his choice as well.
“I am very committed to equality and the fight against racism. But I believe everyone has the right to express themselves 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.”
The six-time world title champion , who has led Mercedes to change their primary colour from silver to black for the season, insisted he won’t be stopping his fight to end racism.
“There has been awareness on the subject over the last few weeks and we don’t need it to die a silent death and see no change,” said Hamilton. “I can be the guinea pig and keep speaking out.
“All of us, myself included, we have to be accountable. This started with NFL player Colin Kaepernick. He sat down for the US national anthem. He sat down and received a backlash. It was suggested to him to take a knee. It was a powerful statement but he lost his job and never got it back.
“I spoke to him before the  US Grand Prix and I had a helmet made in red with his number on the top. But I was silenced and told to back down. I supported that decision which I regret.