Lewis Hamilton says Formula 1 must do a “better job” in organising a pre-race stand against racism, and that Grand Prix Drivers Association director Romain Grosjean “doesn’t think it’s important to do it”.
Since the season-opening Austrian Grand Prix, where F1 had a prominent anti-racism message among the pre-race grid ceremonies, the drivers have been left to organise their own activity.
At the second Red Bull Ring race this featured everyone wearing ‘End Racism’ T-shirts and most drivers taking a knee alongside Hamilton, but before the Hungarian GP today it appeared rushed and less unified.
Hamilton, F1’s first and only black driver, has been a vocal supporter of anti-racism messaging in alignment with the movement that spiked in activity after George Floyd’s killing in the United States, and has also urged F1 not to relent as the issue has faded from mainstream focus.
In an interview with Sky Sports F1 after winning the Hungarian GP, Hamilton was told that the pre-race action seemed rushed and Haas driver and Grand Prix Drivers Association director Grosjean had indicated a decision was made about what everyone was doing.
“Well, he doesn’t think it’s important to do it,” replied Hamilton.
“He’s one of them that thinks that it was done once and that’s all we need to do.
“So I tried to speak to him about what the problem is and that it’s not going away and we have to continue to fight for it, but I think this time he didn’t mention anything in the driver briefing and neither did Sebastian [Vettel].
“And Sebastian and I message each other and he stressed as did I about the importance to continue to do it.
“I think moving forwards we need to speak with Formula 1. They’ve got to do a better job.
“It was such a rush. I was running out of the car and over, quickly taking the knee.”
Vettel backed Hamilton’s view of the situation, saying “what you saw” in the rushed Hungarian GP grid event “was how it is” and that drivers needed to discuss the matter and organise better for future races.
When Hamilton’s comments were put to Grosjean’s team boss Guenther Steiner, the Haas chief said: “I think it’s everybody’s personal decision what they do, and I know Romain very well, for sure he supports it.
“But there is also the question, how long do we do this?
“You show your support, and we support it completely as team, as human beings personally.
“It’s everybody’s own decision what he wants to do with it and how long he wants to do it.
“I think we are all up for it but we have done that and if somebody decides not to do it anymore it doesn’t mean that he is not against racism. We should be conscious of that as well.
“It’s a free world, we respect everybody in the world, and Romain has done it and then it’s his own decision what he does going forward.”
F1 has pledged action to improve diversity in grand prix racing and set up a foundation that will primarily fund apprenticeships and scholarships for underrepresented groups.
However, Hamilton plans to reach out in the coming days to try to have an active and organised plan in place for the next race, as F1 now has a week off before the British Grand Prix at Silverstone.
“They need to do more, and I don’t know why they’ve only done it for the first race, they’ve not done it since then,” he said.
“They’ve come out saying that they are fighting for diversity and racism but they are not giving us the platform to continue that.
“It’s rushed, so I think if they can give us more time, so if we speak to them, I’ll probably send an email over the next couple of days and try and co-ordinate with them.
“Because they do want to do it, it’s just I guess there was not good enough communications.”
Hamilton has made it clear before that he is not willing to ‘force’ a driver to make a gesture they are not comfortable doing.
Only a handful of drivers on the grid have chosen not to kneel.
“With the other drivers there’s not a lot I could do,” he said.
“I gave a lot of energy in Austria to try and convince a couple of the drivers and it’s a battle, but I think what’s important is the ones that are doing it, the understanding I think is fantastic.
“My dream is that one day the other drivers come round to it and if we get to the last race and we’re all kneeling down and showing that we’re united, that would be beautiful.”