LONDON (Reuters) – Formula One drivers followed Lewis Hamilton’s lead on Monday after the six-times world champion criticised his sport’s silence over the killing of George Floyd, an unarmed black man who died after a white U.S. police officer knelt on his neck.
The death in Minneapolis triggered a wave of outrage and violent protests in the United States.
Britain’s Hamilton, Formula One’s first black world champion who spends much of his time in America, spoke out on Instagram on Sunday.
“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,” wrote the Mercedes driver.
“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,” he added.
“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.”
Mercedes retweeted the latter comment and issued a statement assuring Hamilton that they stood with him.
“Tolerance is an elementary principle of our team and we are enriched by diversity in all its forms,” it added, condemning any discrimination.
Renault’s Daniel Ricciardo said Floyd’s death was “a disgrace”.
“Racism is toxic and needs to be addressed not with violence or silence but with unity and action,” the Australian wrote on Instagram.
Ferrari’s Charles Leclerc said on Twitter he had felt “out of place and uncomfortable” sharing his thoughts on social media about the situation but realised he had been “completely wrong”.
“I still struggle to find the words to describe the atrocity of some videos I’ve seen on Internet. Racism needs to be met with actions, not silence,” added the Monegasque.
Williams driver George Russell echoed Leclerc’s words and said it was time to kick racism out.
“We all have a voice to speak up for what’s right — and until now I didn’t know how to use mine in this situation,” said the Briton.
“Ultimately, no matter how uncomfortable it may be to speak out, silence achieves nothing.”
McLaren’s Carlos Sainz and Lando Norris also spoke out while Racing Point’s Sergio Perez tweeted the #blacklivesmatter hashtag and Alfa Romeo’s Antonio Giovinazzi called for #JusticeForFloyd.
There have been several nights of unrest over race and policing in many U.S. cities as a series of curfews failed to quell confrontations between some protesters and police.
Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin was charged last Friday with third-degree murder in the death of 46-year-old Floyd.
(Reporting by Alan Baldwin, editing by Lincoln Feast/Peter Rutherford/Ken Ferris/Pritha Sarkar)