Lewis Hamilton says that someone outside of Formula 1 from “really quite high up” in the United States dissuaded him from running a helmet design in support of Colin Kaepernick at the 2017 United States Grand Prix in Austin.
After last Sunday’s race in Austria – where there was significant focus on the drivers coming together on the grid to show their support for an end to racism – Hamilton said he had planned to wear a helmet to show solidarity with Kaepernick back in 2017. The NFL quarterback, then with the San Francisco 49ers, started taking a knee to protest for racial equality during the 2016 season. He was released prior to the following season and went unsigned by other teams, but the act of kneeling for the national anthem prior to games by NFL players became more widespread in 2017 as Kaepernick claimed he was being kept out of the league because of his political beliefs.
“I’d actually spoken to him shortly after that for the U.S. Grand Prix and I had a helmet and everything made in red with his number on the top but back then I was told to back down, don’t support him, which I would say that I regret,” Hamilton said.
When asked on Thursday in Austria who advised him not to wear the helmet, Hamilton replied, “Jeez, I have the worst memory so I don’t remember all the details. I do know that I was advised from outside from someone in the States, who was really quite high up, that it wasn’t the time for me to be doing so, and there were potential consequences of me doing it, so that’s why they advised me not to.
“I do still have that helmet that I did for Colin and I did speak to Colin about it. He was super supportive for me to have taken the knee, but I’m grateful that I was able to do it last weekend and continue on the great movement I think he initially started and so many are continuing on today.”
A number of drivers were asked if they would take a knee again ahead of this Sunday’s Styrian Grand Prix, and all said they didn’t think they would have the opportunity to do so. Lando Norris said it had yet to be discussed between them collectively, and Hamilton agreed with the McLaren driver.
“This weekend I don’t believe we have that position ahead of the national anthem – whether we have the space and the time to utilize the moment and make a stand. I don’t believe that’s there now, so we will probably go to the national anthem and it’s not my goal to take a knee during the national anthem. If there’s another opportunity…
“It was really encouraging to see at least one of the teams taking a knee – I think it was the Red Bull team, I thought that was great. So if we have time maybe there’s something my team and I could do. It’s just about time and there’s not a lot of time before the race.
“What I do think is important though is that people of color don’t really have the time to just have this as a small moment and then go back to things as normal. We have to continue to speak out, we have to continue to utilize the moment to spread awareness and try to push for change. That’s not going to go away anytime soon.
“I will do my utmost. I’m not against taking the knee again, so if I can find a way of making sure it doesn’t get in the way of us doing our job, then I will.”