‘To kneel or not to kneel, that is not the question’: Lando Norris calls for F1 to sort out its anti-racism message

Norris has taken a knee before every race this season but insists the gesture does not represent those who are for and against takling racism, with everyone determined to help F1 send the right message to help ‘shape the future’

Lewis Hamilton wins F1 Hungarian Grand Prix

Lando Norris hopes that by taking a knee in a show against racism he is helping to shape the future of a more equal society, but the McLaren driver leapt to the defence of those who have remained on their feet before races this season.

The 20-year-old Briton has been one of at least half the grid who have knelt before each races in Austria and Hungary, with Formula One launching the #WeRaceAsOne campaign to show their stance against racism. But at least four drivers have decided to remain standing before races, while several were late to the anti-racism gesture or missed it entirely before the second and third Grands Prix of the season.

Following last weekend’s confusion, reigning world champion Lewis Hamilton hit out at Haas driver Romain Grosjean, one of the three directors of the Grand Prix Drivers’ Association, for not caring enough about continuing the anti-racism message, and a number of others have since accepted that more organisation needs to be given towards the events that precede lights out.

Ahead of this weekend’s British Grand Prix - the first of two back-to-back races at Silverstone - home favourite Norris has followed suit and called on the drivers, F1 and the FIA to structure how the sport can take as strong a stance against racism as possible.

“After last weekend there needs to be a bigger discussion on what we’re doing over the next few weekends. It was a mess,” Norris said.

“I think I’ll back that up with we’re all united in agreeing with what we support as a community of F1 drivers and whether we do take the knee or don’t take the knee, that is not the question. I don’t think that needs to be the reason for why people judge some of us to be supportive or not. I think we all support it no matter what, but there just needs to be a bigger discussion and better planning for everything come Sunday.”

Norris has not decided if he will kneel before his home race this weekend, with the 20-year-old hoping to use the drivers’ briefing on Friday to decide the best way to demonstrate his stance against racism. But he does not want anyone to think that it means he’s taking things lightly.

Having finished third in the opening race of the season and rallying to snatch fifth with a thrilling final lap in the Styrian Grand Prix, Norris returns to Silverstone fourth in the drivers’ championship and carrying the largest fandom of his career to date. Instead of ignoring that, he wants to try and use that to bring about change, in a similar way to Lewis Hamilton’s decision that his best bet of shaping the future is by using his large following on social media.

“I take a knee because I feel like that is most meaningful for the situation we are in,” he explained. “I want to have the biggest impact I can on bringing an end against racism and it’s one of the few times in life where people like me and us as drivers and people around the world can have an impact on the future as much as what we’re going through now with all the equality and racism talk. This is one of the biggest initiatives around the world to try and go up against something and make a change going into the future and shape it in some ways, and I want to do everything I can. That decision came from that thought process.”

F1 have been criticised for not organising their anti-racism message 

Despite the likes of Norris and Hamilton speaking clearly about what they want to achieve, F1 has had to deal with claims that they do not care enough about their own anti-racism campaign to send out the right message. That has been denied across the board by drivers and officials alike, but there is a general agreement that more must be done by everyone involved to bring the message up to F1’s standards.

“It wasn’t planned, or no one spoke up in the briefing that we had with what we were going to do and I recommended that we have a little WhatsApp group or something just so we could send around ‘right this is what we’re doing’ but no one seemed up for that for some reason,” added Norris. “But we just need to put a better plan into place along with the FIA and Formula One on what we’re going to be doing in the next few weekends on Sunday because we’re all in agreement that we want to do something.

“After the last drivers’ briefing, some people were expecting the usual people to pop up and say what the plan was, and some people weren’t and were just expecting to go and do the same thing this weekend.

“So people were just in different minds over what was happening, but we’re all on the same page. (The GPDA) led by some great people who have great ideas and so on, and we all have the same meaning, but it wasn’t planned as well as it should have been.”

One issue Norris highlighted was that drivers are being asked to do more than meets the eye in those final minutes before lights out. After driving from the pits to the grid over a handful of laps, drivers have barely 10 minutes to discuss the car, track and conditions to enable any last-minute changes, before running to the front of the gird for an anti-racism message that hasn’t been organised and the subsequent national anthem - all while trying to get into the right mindset for a Grand Prix.

“As a driver, I’m there to race,” Norris said. “I’m there to race a Formula One car and do well for the team and score the best results possible, and in doing that I speak with the engineers and I get out of the car when I’ve done my laps to the grid. I go and speak to my engineers, then we have to rush off to the anthem and so on, and over the past few weekends the only one that was prepared for was round one when there was the ‘No Racism’ carpet down and we had to be there one minute prior to normal.

“But nothing was planned as well as that in the second or third race and with the conditions and everything last weekend it was even more rushed than normal.

“I did my laps to the grid and I had to go speak to my engineer and we discussed some things, it was the same with all the other drivers - with Max crashing - and everyone’s having to do their job which is going to speak to the engineers and preparing for the Formula One race and we don’t have any time to then go and do any extra activities that we’re trying to do currently.”

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