Romain Grosjean says he and Lewis Hamilton had a 45-minute discussion about the approach from Formula 1 drivers when it comes to making an anti-racism protest before races.
All of the drivers appeared at the front of the grid before the opening round of the 2020 season in Austria, wearing matching T-shirts reading ‘End Racism’ or ‘Black Lives Matter’. While much of the focus was on some drivers who took a knee and some who didn’t, the organized protest was captured on television having been given a specific slot in the Sunday schedule.
The messaging became disjointed by the second race and no such time was allocated at either the Styrian or Hungarian Grands Prix, and after a messy image in Hungary, Hamilton criticized Grosjean as a director of the Grand Prix Drivers Association for allegedly siding with other drivers who felt there was no need to continue with the protest.
“Yes, I have spoken to Lewis — we had a 45-minute phone call Tuesday after the race, a really good chat about many things and F1 in general but obviously the subject was there — the end racism subject,” Grosjean said at Silverstone ahead of this weekend’s British GP. “I explained to Lewis that maybe I did it wrong, maybe I did it right — I don’t know, it felt right at the time — but we are two directors at the GPDA and we had I’d say seven or eight drivers that were not happy to carry on this ceremony as it was done at Race 1 in Austria.
“And I said, ‘Lewis, look, maybe I did it wrong but I felt that as one of the directors — Sebastian (Vettel) — was pushing in the direction of carrying on ‘End Racism’ (protests), which is the right approach; I was speaking for the drivers that were not happy to carry on, to express their voices, as a director of the GPDA.
“Thinking about it it was probably the wrong thing to do — Lewis had some good arguments, I did also, but I think it was the wrong thing to do. Later in the week, Alexander Wurz and myself from the GPDA, we had another conference call with (FIA president) Jean Todt and (F1 chairman) Chase Carey, making sure we do things in the right way.
“It’s hard for us drivers to organize events, so we wanted more guidance from (F1 owner) Liberty and a clear procedure for the race as we did in Austria 1. That’s going to happen and it’ll be clear to us to know what to do.
“It was a good chat with Lewis — maybe I did it the wrong way, but as GPDA we work on majority vote and I felt if I wasn’t listening to the guys not happy to carry on, I wasn’t doing my duties. But he mentioned that as one of the directors, they listen to you. That was his point and I think he was right in that aspect. It was a very good phone call.”
While Grosjean was pleased with the conversation he had with Hamilton in helping to improve matters in future, he says he was subject to abuse in the gap between races from fans who felt he was not being supportive.
“I wasn’t happy that in my social media, there was a lot of things about racism and I’m a racist, which is absolutely wrong — I don’t think you’ll find anyone in the world saying I’m a racist or did something wrong, so I wasn’t very happy about being treated that way, but that’s the explanation.
“I was one of the first to push for taking the knee — I’m still hopeful we get 20 drivers to take the knee on the grid and that it will happen, but we need to keep the education, pushing the guys and telling them it’s a sportsman gesture and we have to support a cause for something that shouldn’t exist.”
Formula 1 will again allocate time in Sunday’s pre-race schedule for the drivers to make a stand against racism on the grid.