Lewis Hamilton hasn’t ruled out taking a knee ahead of the United States GP – but stressed he stands alongside the social movement which has split America.
Hamilton, on the cusp of becoming Britain’s all-time most successful F1 driver as he closes in on a fourth world championship, has previously indicated he would consider joining the protest.
The Mercedes driver has also posted a series of social media messages referencing the NFL protests and American politics, including a now-deleted video which involved a doll of President Trump.
I know a lot of people here in America, l know black and white people who live in America, and l get quite a good view of what is happening here and about the movement, which is pretty huge, said Hamilton.
I posted about it because l respect it highly. I find the movement that [Colin] Kaepernick started awesome and l am very much in support of it.
But l am here to win and that is the top of my priority. I’m not focused on anything else right now.
Hamilton remains F1’s only black driver and added: Winning here is the most important thing for me, particularly in the heat of what is going on. That is a priority for me – you know what l am talking about.
Hamilton is F1’s blockbuster, box-office totem. With a worldwide following of millions, and as motorsport’s most recognised superstar, the impact of the 32-year-old taking a knee before Sunday’s race in Texas can scarcely be imagined. So too, however, can the level of distraction it would heap on the man himself just minutes before a grand prix in which he could become only the fifth driver in F1 history to claim a fourth championship.
I am here to win and don’t plan on allowing all the BS that surrounds the topic to pull me down in my strive to win this year’s title. I have worked hard to be where l am today and whilst l do have opinions and feelings towards the whole situation, at the moment l have no plans to do anything.
At the moment. The possibility is still there that Hamilton will join the protest and it is the safest bet of the F1 year to predict that all eyes – and all cameras – will be trained on Hamilton when the drivers are called up to the front of the grid on Sunday evening for the pre-race playing of ‘The Star-Spangled Banner’.
Another possibility is that Hamilton could take a knee in the event of winning the race when he is called up to the podium.
Whatever he decides, it is clear that Hamilton is at once both torn about joining the movement and fully supportive of the protest which has put hundreds of sportsmen in America on a collision course with their president.
I don’t particularly feel that I’ve given enough, I think you can always do more, Hamilton told Sky Sports F1. Politics is very, very interesting and there’s a lot of powerful people in this country. There’s also lots of opinions for and against – it’s easy for people who are not particularly affected by it to have the opposite opinion.
I am in support but at the same time, I’m here to do a job and I’m not going to allow you-know-who, the big, big cheese to stop me from doing what I love.
Why are NFL players ‘taking a knee’?
The practice of not standing for the anthem was started by former San Francisco 49ers quarterback Kaepernick last year as a means of protesting perceived racial injustice and police brutality.
A handful of athletes had followed Kaepernick by kneeling or raising their fist since then, but after President Trump launched a scathing attack earlier this month – calling for club owners to ‘fire’ those players – the protests have intensified and are growing in number.
Almost 200 players protested during Week 3 of the 2017 NFL season, with several staying in their locker rooms for the US national anthem during their games. But the war of words continues, and so, it seems, will the protests.
Will Lewis Hamilton clinch his fourth world championship in Austin? Watch the US GP weekend live on Sky Sports F1 – the race begins at 8pm on Sunday. Want to watch but not got Sky F1? Buy a NOW TV pass from £6.99!