Jul.31 (GMM) Formula 1 should not be involved “in racism or politics in general”, according to the sport’s former chief executive Bernie Ecclestone.
Since the Black Lives Matter movement and anti-racism demonstrations the world over gained steam in the wake of George Floyd’s death, the issue spread even to the F1 paddock.
It has been championed in F1 by six-time world champion Lewis Hamilton, who on Thursday received an apology from Grand Prix Drivers’ Association director Romain Grosjean for advocating that the ‘take a knee’ gesture before races be axed.
“Seven or eight drivers were not happy to carry on the ceremony,” the Haas driver explained. “I was speaking for those drivers as a director of the GPDA.
“Now thinking about it, it was probably the wrong thing to do,” said Grosjean. “It was a good chat with Lewis. I said sorry and Lewis put some good arguments, and I did too.”
The apology followed a spate of abuse he received on social media, including accusations that the Frenchman is racist.
“I wasn’t very happy about being treated like that,” said Grosjean, who was not among the drivers who elected to stand rather kneel.
One of the drivers who stands, however, is Carlos Sainz, who said at Silverstone: “Freedom allows me to express my position in a way that suits me, my culture and my principles.
“And I expect everyone in the paddock to respect my opinion.”
It is an awkward situation for Formula 1, whose former position was to separate politics from the sport.
Kevin Magnussen also says the last few races have been awkward for him.
“I am obviously against racism, and it is good that we are drawing attention to it,” he is quoted by BT newspaper. “Of course I want to be part of that, but I do not want to be political.
“But it is difficult as an athlete and a public figure to know how what you do like that is received. It is obvious that we are all in favour of stopping racism.
“But on the other hand, I do not want to support political organisations that I do not agree with,” the Haas driver added.
It has also been awkward for Ecclestone’s successor, Chase Carey, whose wife Wendy reportedly deleted her Twitter account recently.
The deletion was hot on the heels of reports that she openly supported Donald Trump on the platform.
When asked if he thinks it was necessary for Mrs Carey to delete her account, Ecclestone told GMM: “Maybe it was done under Chase’s instruction.
“I think the US president has done a good job for the world,” the 89-year-old added.
Indeed, one possibility is that Carey wants to avoid a political clash with Hamilton, who is F1’s top star, especially as American Carey was also reportedly at the centre of the founding of the politically right-wing Fox News.
“I thought it was Rupert Murdoch,” Ecclestone told us.
“In any case I am not following Fox News so I cannot comment on their politics, but I follow Formula 1’s long standing position of not being involved in racism or politics in general.”
As for racism in F1 more generally, and whether Carey and Hamilton are aligned politically, Ecclestone continued: “The race promoters want to organise a race, the teams want to race, the drivers want to win and really no one is trying to stop this because of people’s racism and colour.
“I have not seen where Chase has aligned with what Lewis is doing, whatever it is. Time will tell,” he added.