Lewis Hamilton says 'the fight is not won' and he will continue to take a knee ahead of 2021 F1 races
Lewis Hamilton: "What's really important is when young children are watching what we are doing and when they see us take the knee, they will sit and ask their parents or their teachers 'why are they doing that? What are they taking the knee for?' It sparks an uncomfortable conversation"
By James Galloway
Last Updated: 26/03/21 5:58am
Lewis Hamilton says he plans to continue taking a knee ahead of F1 races this season as the "fight is not won", as he backed the steps the sport is taking to help create a "better world".
F1 is widening the focus of its pre-race ceremony on the grid ahead of this races this year as part of an expanded We Race As One programme.
However, drivers will continue to have the opportunity to show their support for issues in society in a moment of reflection, such as taking a knee.
Hamilton led the majority of the sport's drivers in performing the gesture as part of a designated anti-racism gathering on the grid last year and, speaking on Thursday on the opening day in the Bahrain paddock of the 2021 season, the seven-time champion said it had "definitely felt empowering to not be silenced".
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He outlined why he felt it was important to continue taking a knee before races into 2021.
"We have an amazing platform here. I think it's great to see the steps that Formula 1 are taking, the steps that Mercedes are taking, to make this sport more diverse," said Hamilton.
"And I plan to continue to take the knee because what's really important is when young children are watching what we are doing in this sport and when they see us take the knee, they will sit and ask their parents or their teachers 'why are they doing that? What are they taking the knee for?'
"And it sparks an uncomfortable conversation.
"It means parents have to educate themselves and the kids are getting educated. So it's a fight that's not won, it's a fight that will continue on for a long time, I'm sure. But we are in a good time where conversation is healthy."
Hamilton said he felt as though F1 was "in the best place it's been in, in terms of the steps it's taking" to make a difference.
"I'm really proud of what F1 is doing in terms of acknowledging they have a great platform to work towards a better world," said Hamilton.
Hamilton on human rights questions
The Mercedes driver was also asked about human rights in Bahrain.
Hamilton received letters on F1's last visit to the country in November from three Bahraini nationals who alleged human rights abuses. Hamilton said the letters had "weighed quite heavily on me" and he had since spoken to human rights groups, the UK ambassador in Bahrain, and local officials in the country to "try and educate myself".
He said his discussions would remain private.
"It's not in my power to choose where we go and race. but just reflecting again on the powerful position we are in and in terms of the responsibility… I don't think human rights should be a political issue. We all deserve equal rights," he said.
"In terms of whether its Formula 1's responsibility, I don't know whether that's for me to say but as I said I'm taking steps and understanding and I think as a sport we do go to lots of different places, different beautiful countries and cultures and naturally there's issues all around the world.
"But I don't think we should be going to these countries and just ignoring what is happening in those places, arriving, having a great time and then leave."
Campaign groups and 61 British MPs wrote to F1's new president Stefano Domenicali asking him to commission an independent inquiry into human rights allegations in Bahrain.
In a statement issued on Wednesday, an F1 spokesperson said: "We fully believe that sport has always had a unique role in bringing different cultures together and crossing borders, being a force for good. We believe that shutting countries off from sport is not the right approach and engagement is far better than isolation.
"Where possible we monitor and audit activities in host countries that relate directly to the staging of an event and behind the scenes we have meaningful discussions with all hosts about our values and the standards that we expect."
A Bahrain government spokesperson told The Guardian the country had "put in place internationally recognised human rights safeguards".