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Formula 1

F1 drivers free to choose how to mark pre-race ‘unity moment’

by Matt Beer
3 min read

Formula 1 drivers will be free to choose how they mark the pre-race ‘unity moment’ at grands prix this season, in place of last year’s mandated ‘End Racism’ display.

As reported by The Race, F1 had decided to replace its dedicated pre-race anti-racism stand with an unspecified show of support for “important issues” in 2021, because all of F1’s environmental and social campaigns and projects have moved under the ‘WeRaceAsOne’ banner.

WeRaceAsOne was launched last year to recognise the response to the COVID-19 pandemic and also the surge in anti-racism protests around the world, most notably in the United States – leading, eventually, to a more organised anti-racism display before the start of every race.

In 2021, the initiative’s focus is broader, highlighting sustainability, diversity and inclusion, and community.

It was expected that drivers would be able to mark the moment with an anti-racism gesture but F1 had not specified whether it would have a rotation of issues to mark at each race or it would be completely open each time.

However, new F1 CEO Stefano Domenicali met with drivers ahead of testing in Bahrain last week, with the conversation including what should be done before races this year.

Motor Racing Formula One World Championship Steiermark Grand Prix Race Day Spielberg, Austria

It is understood F1 wants to move the focus away from specific gestures and prioritise the unified stance the 20 drivers are taking by representing the ‘WeRaceAsOne’ banner.

F1 stresses that the absence of the specific anti-racism moment before the race does not mean that support for the issue is over because diversity is part of the core ‘WeRaceAsOne’ focus.

The drivers will be free to mark the broader pre-race ‘unity moment’ in a manner of their choosing, such as taking the knee.

“Last year there were a lot of slogans but action is needed this year” :: Lewis Hamilton

“The whole of Formula 1 is united in its support for ‘WeRaceAsOne’ and the drivers will all show their own support for the initiative ahead of the Grand Prix,” an F1 spokesperson said.

“The drivers will be free to show their commitment in their own way before the race and there will be no requirement for them to make a specific gesture.

“The important thing is all of them being together in full support of our initiatives on sustainability, diversity and inclusion, and community.”

Motor Racing Formula One World Championship Tuscan Grand Prix Race Day Mugello, Italy

Last year’s anti-racism efforts caused some division in F1’s ranks as while all 20 drivers were willing to represent the End Racism message, not all were comfortable taking the knee.

Hamilton said he hoped that would change but insisted he would not force anyone to do it if they did not want to, and that he respected the individual positions.

During pre-season testing earlier this month, Hamilton expressed a desire for F1 to move past only relying on gestures anyway.
F1’s seven-time world champion has created the Hamilton Commission to explore the reasons for motorsport’s lack of diversity.

He and his Mercedes team also have a joint foundation that was established as part of Hamilton’s new contract for 2021.

Meanwhile, F1 itself is funding a variety of ideas including scholarships and apprenticeships for underrepresented groups, in an effort to improve diversity and representation in the paddock.

“Last year there were a lot of slogans,” said Hamilton at testing. “But action is needed this year.

“That was something that was spoken to us and was expressed to us.

“That’s really what we’ve got to make sure [happens], that we continue to have that conversation, continue to make sure that action is taken this year as we continue to push for diversity inclusion within this sport.”

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