F1 drivers respond to Lewis Hamilton criticism over silence on George Floyd death

Jack de Menezes
Lewis Hamilton criticised other F1 drivers for remaining silent during the racial injustice protests: Reuters

A number of Formula One drivers have spoken out publicly over the killing of George Floyd, following fierce criticism from world champion Lewis Hamilton of the sport’s ongoing silence.

Hamilton issued a strong statement on Sunday condemning his peers for their failure to speak out on the racial injustice being witnessed in the United States and around the world, with protests turning violent after police clashed with the public in ugly scenes across America.

George Floyd died after a white police officer knelt on his neck for what the victim's family have said was more than eight minutes, despite Mr Floyd saying that he could not breathe. The recently-dismissed officer, Derek Chauvin, has been arrested and charged with third-degree murder and second-degree manslaughter.

Hamilton is the only black driver currently on the grid in Formula One, with just one other black man getting the chance to test in F1 in the form of American driver Willy T Ribbs in 1986 with the Bernie Ecclestone-owned Brabham team. There have been a handful of other drivers of BAME origin in the sport’s history, but on the whole F1 is a white-male dominated sport.

Writing on his Instagram page, six-time world champion Hamilton said: "I see those of you who are staying silent, some of you the biggest of stars yet you stay silent in the midst of injustice.

"Not a sign from anybody in my industry which of course is a white dominated sport. I’m one of the only people of colour there yet I stand alone.

"I would have thought by now you would see why this happens and say something about it but you can’t stand alongside us. Just know I know who you ... are and I see you."

In a second post, Hamilton added: "I do not stand with those looting and burning buildings but those who are protesting peacefully. There can be no peace until our so called leaders make change."

The message appeared to draw responses from Ferrari driver Charles Leclerc and McLaren’s Lando Norris, while Renault’s Danial Ricciardo also spoke out.

Leclerc posted three linked messages on his Twitter account, saying: “To be completely honest, I felt out of place and uncomfortable sharing my thoughts on social media about the whole situation and this is why I haven't expressed myself earlier than today.

“And I was completely wrong.”

A man holds up a sign near a burning building during protests sparked by the death of George Floyd while in police custody (Getty)

Leclerc added: “I still struggle to find the words to describe the atrocity of some videos I've seen on (the) Internet. Racism needs to be met with actions, not silence. Please be actively participating, engaging and encouraging others to spread awareness.

“It is our responsibility to speak out against injustice. Don't be silent. I stand #BlackLivesMatters.”

Ricciardo and Norris are due to become teammates at McLaren next season when the former moves from Renault to replace Carlos Sainz, and the Australian also spoke out before Hamilton’s messages were posted to label the killing of George Floyd “a disgrace”.

"Racism is toxic and needs to be addressed not with violence or silence but with unity and action," the Australian said on Instagram.

Norris added: “I have fans and followers. Support and love. And I have power through this to lead and inspire so many. But we also stand for what’s right. This time I ask you to do something and take action. #BlackLivesMatters.”

Norris also included a link to a page supporting the Black Lives Matter protests, with the chance to sign the petition for change or to donate towards the cause.

Williams driver Nicholas Latifi also spoke out adding on Twitter: "This has to stop #JusticeForGeorgeFloyd."

Racing Point driver Sergio Pere retweeted a video that showed a speech by a Michigan joining the peaceful protests and laying down his riot gear.