Formula One’s pre-race ceremony against racism has continued to create division within the grid as the list of drivers who stood rather than ‘take a knee’ increased to seven ahead of the British Grand Prix.
In the first three races of the campaign the 20 drivers including world champion Lewis Hamilton have elected to show their support in the battle against racism by wearing shirts reading ‘end racism’, with Hamilton uniquely wearing a ‘Black Lives Matter’ top.
The majority have taken a knee as a symbol of support but six drivers including Max Verstappen, Kimi Raikkonen, Charles Leclerc, Antonio Giovinazzi, Carlos Sainz and Daniil Kvyat have consistently stood during the pre-race ceremony.
However Haas driver Kevin Magnussen, who has previously knelt in the Black Lives Matter protest before the race, joined the original six at Silverstone by electing to stand.
While Magnussen has been content to ‘take a knee’ before previous races, he has recently admitted he was uncomfortable with the gesture’s links to the Black Lives Matter organisation, whose political aims linked with the far left have proven controversial.
‘We talked about it as drivers what we could do to show our solidarity and support for this movement going on in the world right now,’ Magnussen said.
‘Obviously some drivers didn’t decide to take the knee, some did. I decided to take the knee. I thought about it whether I should do it or not.
‘At the end of the day, I didn’t want it to be associated with the particular movement, Black Lives Matter. That organisation, I cannot agree with all they stand for, but I can agree to end racism and to be in support of ending discrimination against black people. That’s why I took the knee.
‘I thought from my side that was the correct thing to do. I have no issues with the drivers who didn’t choose to take the knee. We are all united in the fact that we are against racism, we are trying to put an end to this and I think every driver and every person is free to show their thought and how to get that across in their own way.’
The division between the drivers who have stood and those who have knelt has quickly become a difficult issue for F1 chiefs to deal with, and they hit a fresh new low in the previous race at the Hungarian Grand Prix when a poorly organised pre-race ceremony to stand against racism led to some drivers arriving late or not at all.
Ferrari driver Sebastian Vettel has since criticised F1’s haphazard approach to the organisation of the event, insisting that the drivers feel let down by the shambles.
‘It should not be up to us drivers alone,’ Vettel said. ‘We are not organising the races, so I think it’s not just in our interest.
‘I think we’ve tried to keep sending a certain message, which we are convinced of is right. But we were, after the first race, let down by FIA and FOM, because they didn’t really help us to organise something.
‘I hope tomorrow [Sunday] is better. We’ll have a bit more time as well. So we’ll see what happens.’
In an attempt to provide ‘clarity and reassurance’ to the drivers, F1 arranged a protocol to demonstrate their opposition on the morning of the British of the Grand Prix.
This included the majority of the drivers taking the knee lining up at the front of the grid, with those electing to stand featuring a row behind at 17 minutes before the start of the race at Silverstone.