Spielberg (dpa) - At the season opener in Austria, the Formula 1 drivers were unable to agree on a closed knee as a sign of racism.

After intense debates, particularly at the instigation of world champion Lewis Hamilton, a number of drivers declined this gesture before the start of the Grand Prix in Spielberg on Sunday. "I believe that facts and behaviors count more in our daily lives than formal gestures that could be controversial in some countries," said Ferrari driver Charles Leclerc, declining to kneel as many athletes around the world had previously shown.

A total of 14 pilots dropped to their knees before the start, including besides Hamilton also Leclerc's team-mate Sebastian Vettel. In addition to Leclerc, Max Verstappen, Lando Norris, Carlos Sainz, Antonio Giovinazzi and Daniil Kwjat stopped. All drivers, however, wore black T-shirts, most of them with the words "End Racism". Hamilton's shirt showed the message “Black lives matter”.

The driver union GPDA had previously announced: "All 20 drivers are united with their teams against racism and prejudice, at the same time they welcome the principles of diversity, equality and inclusion and support the commitment of Formula 1 to this." The World Association Fia gave each pilot permission to make their own gestures.

The model for the knee is football star Colin Kaepernick. The NFL quarterback had used this gesture to protest racism and police violence.

Hamilton, in particular, had recently spoken repeatedly and called for Formula 1 to be more committed to the fight for equal opportunities and more diversity. As a signal for more diversity, Mercedes painted the silver arrow black for this season. With a task force and a foundation, the racing series wants to be more open to people from all walks of life.

© dpa-infocom, dpa: 200705-99-681088 / 2

Communication from the GPDA

Formula 1 tweet about the action