Lewis Hamilton gives black power salute on the podium after winning the Styrian Grand Prix

Six-times F1 world champion gestures in support of anti-racism movement by mirroring the famous image from the 1968 Olympics

Jack de Menezes
Sports News Correspondent
Sunday 12 July 2020 16:06
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F1 returns: A lap of the Austrian Grand Prix

Lewis Hamilton produced a ‘Black Power’ salute on the podium after taking victory in the Styrian Grand Prix, having taken a knee for the second weekend in a row before the race.

The powerful image saw Hamilton, who remains the only current black driver in Formula One and the only black world champion in the sport’s history, raise his right fist after the national anthems to show his support for the anti-racism movement that has been in the spotlight over the last two months.

The gesture mirrored the famous sight of the 1968 Olympics, when African-American athletes Tommie Smith and John Carlos wore black gloves and raised their fists during the United States national anthem in support of the civil rights movement.

Along with the 12 drivers who took a knee, the Mercedes team joined their driver in showing solidarity for the anti-racism movement - a decision that was only passed on to the six-time world champion minutes before the race was due to begin.

“I didn’t see it but I was told just before the race that they were going to do it and it wasn’t something I asked them to do," Hamilton said.

"I think it’s a beautiful thing, it doesn’t take a lot to do something like that and it’s not going to change the world but perhaps shif perceptions and ideas, we’ll just keep going.”

The pre-race message did not go as planned though, with some drivers absent from the front of the grid after being late for the national anthem and broadcasters moving away from images at the front of the grid to show a Red Bull stunt team flying over the track. The confusion spread as it seemed the drivers' decision was more of spontaneity rather than an organised message, though while Mercedes boss Toto Wolff shared that confusion, he defended those who did not take a knee for the second week running.

“The team did (take a knee), and we were a bit confused because we thought that the team had to do it before they were kneeling there," Wolff told Sky Sports.

“I think we have to be non-judgemental. None of the drivers, even the ones standing, are racist. We need to respect everyone’s point of view. What we know though is not being racist but being silent, is not enough. I don’t want to judge because we don’t know, they might not kneel but they might do stuff in the background,

“It’s not a one-weekend PR stunt, we haven’t painted the car black for one weekend. Someone said last weekend this isn’t over, it is just the beginning.”

Lewis Hamilton celebrates winning the Styrian Grand Prix

Speaking before the salute, Hamilton expressed his delight at recovering after a tricky opening weekend to take his first victory of the season and get his attempt to equal Michael Schumacher’s tally of seven world titles up and running.

"It is great to be back up here and driving with this kind of performance," said Hamilton after the race. "It was about keeping it together and bringing it home.

"I am so grateful to be back in first place. It feels like a long time since I won at the final race of last season. This is a great step forward."

Hamilton’s gesture came after four drivers elected to stand while the rest of the grid took a knee, with 11 others joining Hamilton in kneeling before the Austrian national anthem ahead of the race.

Lewis Hamilton gives the black power salute after winning the Styrian Grand Prix

Six drivers chose to remain standing before last weekend’s season-opening Austrian Grand Prix, with the other 14 drivers all taking a knee to show their support in the fight against racism.

Charles Leclerc and Max Verstappen were among those who chose not to take a knee last weekend, with Alfa Romeo pair Kimi Raikkonen and Antonio Giovinazzi, McLaren’s Carlos Sainz and Alpha Tauri’s Daniil Kvyat the others who remained on their feet.

Verstappen, Leclerc, Raikkonen and Kvyat again chose to remain on their feet before the Styrian Grand Prix, while Hamilton took a knee alongside 11 other drivers on the grid.

However, the stance was somewhat hampered by the fact that not all drivers made it to the grid in time for the anti-racism message, with a number seen running towards the finish line while others had already begun to kneel. Both Sergio Perez and Giovinazzi could be seen running behind and missed the ceremony.

All 20 drivers once again wore T-shirts that had the message ‘END RACISM’ printed on the front, though as he did last weekend Hamilton reversed his shirt so that the message was on the back and instead had ‘Black Lives Matter’ on the front of his.

The stance came before the Austrian national anthem, which saw all drivers return to their feet to honour it before returning to their cars ahead of the race.

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