Lewis Hamilton is optimistic Formula One will present a united front against racism, although there remains disagreement behind the scenes on how the sport approaches it as Sergio Pérez became the first F1 driver to test postive for Covid-19 ahead of this weekend’s British Grand Prix.
The Racing Point driver has entered quarantine and was not at Silverstone on Thursday but racing will continue this weekend as planned, with his team using a reserve driver.
“With assistance of the local organiser of the British Grand Prix, local health authorities and the FIA Covid-19 delegate, a full track and trace initiative has been undertaken and all close contacts have been quarantined,” the FIA said in a statement.
Hamilton said he had talked to F1’s leaders and welcomed the adoption of a formal ceremony before Sunday’s race. However, it also became clear that a large number of drivers had been questioning whether they should continue with any gestures.
Hamilton has been outspoken in his support for the anti-racism movement and expressed frustration and disappointment at the lack of leadership after the gesture in Hungary was rushed and disorganised, with some drivers not present. He has since addressed the issue with the Grand Prix Drivers’ Association, the FIA president, Jean Todt, and F1’s chief executive, Chase Carey, and sporting director, Ross Brawn.
“I had great conversations with them to understand what they are planning and that we are all on the same team here,” he said. “Giving us that extra time before the race we can show how united we are as a sport because other sports have done a better job at consistently doing that.”
Hamilton, F1’s only black driver, also confirmed his intent was to continue racing for some time. “There’s not another driver from my background coming and I’m conscious of that,” he said. “I’m definitely going to be here for the foreseeable future. My goal is to continue to deliver for as long as I can. I do see myself going for at least another three years.”
In terms of his anti-racism goals, however, it appears there is still some dissent on the grid over how it is approached. The Haas driver Romain Grosjean is one of the three directors of the GPDA and after Hungary Hamilton had singled him out as opposing the continuation of making an anti-racist statement pre-race.
Grosjean said at Silverstone that he has since spoken to Hamilton at length and the pair have cleared the air. However in explaining his position Grosjean revealed he had felt duty bound as a director of the GPDA to represent the “seven or eight drivers who were not happy to carry on”. That number equates to more than a third of the grid.
“In the GPDA, we work on the majority vote system, and I felt that if I wasn’t, as one of the directors, listening to the drivers who were not happy to carry on, I wasn’t doing my duties. He [Hamilton] mentioned that as one of the directors they’re listening to you, and that was his point, and I think he was right in that aspect.”
Six drivers did not take a knee at the ceremony in Austria: Max Verstappen, Charles Leclerc, Kimi Räikkönen, Daniil Kvyat, Carlos Sainz and Antonio Giovinazzi. All reaffirmed they were opposed to racism but none gave any indication at Silverstone they were going to change their position on taking a knee, although Grosjean remained optimistic they may do so.