Lewis Hamilton hints at racism in Formula One due to divided take a knee stance

Lewis Hamilton claims division between his fellow drivers over taking a knee before Sunday's Austrian Grand Prix is further proof of racism in Formula One.

Moments after he was beaten to pole position by team-mate Valtteri Bottas for the season-opening race, Hamilton was asked if the split was evidence of a problem within the sport.

"We know there is an issue," the Mercedes driver said. "We don't need an experience like tomorrow to prove that."

During a tense virtual meeting of all 20 drivers at Spielberg's Red Bull Ring on Friday night, the topic of taking a knee was discussed. But the drivers failed to reach a unanimous conclusion.

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SPIELBERG, AUSTRIA - JULY 05: Some of the F1 drivers take a knee on the grid in support of the Black Lives Matter movement ahead of the Formula One Grand Prix of Austria at Red Bull Ring on July 05, 2020 in Spielberg, Austria. (Photo by Peter Fox/Getty Images)
SPIELBERG, AUSTRIA - JULY 05: Lewis Hamilton of Great Britain and Mercedes GP and some of the F1 drivers take a knee on the grid in support of the Black Lives Matter movement ahead of the Formula One Grand Prix of Austria at Red Bull Ring on July 05, 2020 in Spielberg, Austria. (Photo by Clive Mason - Formula 1/Formula 1 via Getty Images)
SPIELBERG, AUSTRIA - JULY 05: Lewis Hamilton of Great Britain and Mercedes GP wears a Black Live Matter shirt on the grid before the Formula One Grand Prix of Austria at Red Bull Ring on July 05, 2020 in Spielberg, Austria. (Photo by Mark Thompson/Getty Images)
SPIELBERG, AUSTRIA - JULY 05: A general view of the grid before the Formula One Grand Prix of Austria at Red Bull Ring on July 05, 2020 in Spielberg, Austria. (Photo by Mark Thompson/Getty Images)
SPIELBERG, AUSTRIA - JULY 05: A general view at the start of the race during the Formula One Grand Prix of Austria at Red Bull Ring on July 05, 2020 in Spielberg, Austria. (Photo by Mario Renzi - Formula 1/Formula 1 via Getty Images)
SPIELBERG, AUSTRIA - JULY 05: Lewis Hamilton of Great Britain and Mercedes GP prepares to drive on the grid before the Formula One Grand Prix of Austria at Red Bull Ring on July 05, 2020 in Spielberg, Austria. (Photo by Clive Mason - Formula 1/Formula 1 via Getty Images)
SPIELBERG, AUSTRIA - JULY 05: George Russell of Great Britain driving the (63) Williams Racing FW43 Mercedes retires from the race during the Formula One Grand Prix of Austria at Red Bull Ring on July 05, 2020 in Spielberg, Austria. (Photo by Bryn Lennon/Getty Images)
SPIELBERG, AUSTRIA - JULY 05: Romain Grosjean of France driving the (8) Haas F1 Team VF-20 Ferrari runs wide during the Formula One Grand Prix of Austria at Red Bull Ring on July 05, 2020 in Spielberg, Austria. (Photo by Clive Mason - Formula 1/Formula 1 via Getty Images)
SPIELBERG, AUSTRIA - JULY 05: Race winner Valtteri Bottas of Finland and Mercedes GP celebrates on the podium during the Formula One Grand Prix of Austria at Red Bull Ring on July 05, 2020 in Spielberg, Austria. (Photo by Mario Renzi - Formula 1/Formula 1 via Getty Images)
SPIELBERG, AUSTRIA - JULY 05: Alexander Albon of Thailand driving the (23) Aston Martin Red Bull Racing RB16 and Max Verstappen of the Netherlands driving the (33) Aston Martin Red Bull Racing RB16 prepare on the grid during the Formula One Grand Prix of Austria at Red Bull Ring on July 05, 2020 in Spielberg, Austria. (Photo by Clive Mason - Formula 1/Formula 1 via Getty Images)
SPIELBERG, AUSTRIA - JULY 05: The chequered flag is waved during the Formula One Grand Prix of Austria at Red Bull Ring on July 05, 2020 in Spielberg, Austria. (Photo by Peter Fox - Formula 1/Formula 1 via Getty Images)
SPIELBERG, AUSTRIA - JULY 05: Third place Lando Norris of Great Britain and McLaren F1 celebrates on the podium during the Formula One Grand Prix of Austria at Red Bull Ring on July 05, 2020 in Spielberg, Austria. (Photo by Mario Renzi - Formula 1/Formula 1 via Getty Images)
SPIELBERG, AUSTRIA - JULY 05: Race winner Valtteri Bottas of Finland and Mercedes GP, second placed Charles Leclerc of Monaco and Ferrari and third placed Lando Norris of Great Britain and McLaren F1 celebrate on the podium during the Formula One Grand Prix of Austria at Red Bull Ring on July 05, 2020 in Spielberg, Austria. (Photo by Clive Mason - Formula 1/Formula 1 via Getty Images)
Mercedes' British driver Lewis Hamilton steers his car during the second practice session at the Austrian Formula One Grand Prix on July 3, 2020 in Spielberg, Austria. - Seven months after they last competed in earnest, the Formula One circus will push a post-lockdown re-set button to open the 2020 season in Austria on July 5. (Photo by Joe Klamar / various sources / AFP) (Photo by JOE KLAMAR/AFP via Getty Images)
SPIELBERG, AUSTRIA - JULY 05: Third placed Lando Norris of Great Britain and McLaren F1 celebrates with McLaren Team Principal Andreas Seidl in parc ferme during the Formula One Grand Prix of Austria at Red Bull Ring on July 05, 2020 in Spielberg, Austria. (Photo by Mario Renzi - Formula 1/Formula 1 via Getty Images)
SPIELBERG, AUSTRIA - JULY 05: Race winner Valtteri Bottas of Finland and Mercedes GP celebrates with his girlfriend, cyclist Tiffany Cromwell in parc ferme during the Formula One Grand Prix of Austria at Red Bull Ring on July 05, 2020 in Spielberg, Austria. (Photo by Clive Mason - Formula 1/Formula 1 via Getty Images)
SPIELBERG, AUSTRIA - JULY 05: Alexander Albon of Thailand driving the (23) Aston Martin Red Bull Racing RB16 and Max Verstappen of the Netherlands driving the (33) Aston Martin Red Bull Racing RB16 prepare on the grid during the Formula One Grand Prix of Austria at Red Bull Ring on July 05, 2020 in Spielberg, Austria. (Photo by Clive Mason - Formula 1/Formula 1 via Getty Images)
SPIELBERG, AUSTRIA - JULY 05: Alexander Albon of Thailand driving the (23) Aston Martin Red Bull Racing RB16 on track during the Formula One Grand Prix of Austria at Red Bull Ring on July 05, 2020 in Spielberg, Austria. (Photo by Mark Thompson/Getty Images)
SPIELBERG, AUSTRIA - JULY 05: A general view of the grid before the Formula One Grand Prix of Austria at Red Bull Ring on July 05, 2020 in Spielberg, Austria. (Photo by Clive Mason - Formula 1/Formula 1 via Getty Images)
SPIELBERG, AUSTRIA - JULY 05: Pierre Gasly of France driving the (10) Scuderia AlphaTauri AT01 Honda makes a pit stop during the Formula One Grand Prix of Austria at Red Bull Ring on July 05, 2020 in Spielberg, Austria. (Photo by Peter Fox/Getty Images)
SPIELBERG, AUSTRIA - JULY 05: The drivers stand for a minutes silence for the victims of COVID-19 on the grid before during the Formula One Grand Prix of Austria at Red Bull Ring on July 05, 2020 in Spielberg, Austria. (Photo by Clive Mason - Formula 1/Formula 1 via Getty Images)
SPIELBERG, AUSTRIA - JULY 05: An aerial display is seen over the circuit before the Formula One Grand Prix of Austria at Red Bull Ring on July 05, 2020 in Spielberg, Austria. (Photo by Bryn Lennon/Getty Images)
SPIELBERG, AUSTRIA - JULY 05: An aerial display is seen over the circuit before the Formula One Grand Prix of Austria at Red Bull Ring on July 05, 2020 in Spielberg, Austria. (Photo by Mark Thompson/Getty Images)
SPIELBERG, AUSTRIA - JULY 05: Valtteri Bottas of Finland and Mercedes GP talks on the grid before the Formula One Grand Prix of Austria at Red Bull Ring on July 05, 2020 in Spielberg, Austria. (Photo by Mark Thompson/Getty Images)
SPIELBERG, AUSTRIA - JULY 05: Second placed Charles Leclerc of Monaco and Ferrari celebrates with team member during the Formula One Grand Prix of Austria at Red Bull Ring on July 05, 2020 in Spielberg, Austria. (Photo by Clive Mason - Formula 1/Formula 1 via Getty Images)
Mercedes' British driver Lewis Hamilton steers his car during the second practice session at the Austrian Formula One Grand Prix on July 3, 2020 in Spielberg, Austria. - Seven months after they last competed in earnest, the Formula One circus will push a post-lockdown re-set button to open the 2020 season in Austria on July 5. (Photo by Joe Klamar / various sources / AFP) (Photo by JOE KLAMAR/AFP via Getty Images)
(Up-Bottom) Red Bull's Thai driver Alex Albon, Red Bull's Dutch driver Max Verstappen and McLaren's British driver Lando Norris steer the cars during the qualifying round at the Austrian Formula One Grand Prix on July 4, 2020 in Spielberg, Austria. - Seven months after they last competed in earnest, the Formula One circus will push a post-lockdown re-set button to open the 2020 season in Austria on July 5. (Photo by Mark Thompson / POOL / AFP) (Photo by MARK THOMPSON/POOL/AFP via Getty Images)
Mercedes' British driver Lewis Hamilton attends a press conference after the qualifying round at the Austrian Formula One Grand Prix on July 4, 2020 in Spielberg, Austria. - Seven months after they last competed in earnest, the Formula One circus will push a post-lockdown re-set button to open the 2020 season in Austria on July 5. (Photo by Mario RENZI / POOL / AFP) (Photo by MARIO RENZI/POOL/AFP via Getty Images)
Mercedes' British driver Lewis Hamilton steers his car during the qualifying round at the Austrian Formula One Grand Prix on July 4, 2020 in Spielberg, Austria. - Seven months after they last competed in earnest, the Formula One circus will push a post-lockdown re-set button to open the 2020 season in Austria on July 5. (Photo by Joe Klamar / various sources / AFP) (Photo by JOE KLAMAR/AFP via Getty Images)
Mercedes' British driver Lewis Hamilton steers his car during the qualifying round at the Austrian Formula One Grand Prix on July 4, 2020 in Spielberg, Austria. - Seven months after they last competed in earnest, the Formula One circus will push a post-lockdown re-set button to open the 2020 season in Austria on July 5. (Photo by Joe Klamar / various sources / AFP) (Photo by JOE KLAMAR/AFP via Getty Images)
Ferrari's Monegasque driver Charles Leclerc steers his car during the qualifying round at the Austrian Formula One Grand Prix on July 4, 2020 in Spielberg, Austria. - Seven months after they last competed in earnest, the Formula One circus will push a post-lockdown re-set button to open the 2020 season in Austria on July 5. (Photo by Darko Bandic / POOL / AFP) (Photo by DARKO BANDIC/POOL/AFP via Getty Images)
McLaren's British driver Lando Norris steers his car during the qualifying round at the Austrian Formula One Grand Prix on July 4, 2020 in Spielberg, Austria. - Seven months after they last competed in earnest, the Formula One circus will push a post-lockdown re-set button to open the 2020 season in Austria on July 5. (Photo by LEONHARD FOEGER / POOL / AFP) (Photo by LEONHARD FOEGER/POOL/AFP via Getty Images)
Red Bull's Dutch driver Max Verstappen reacts after the qualifying round at the Austrian Formula One Grand Prix on July 4, 2020 in Spielberg, Austria. - Seven months after they last competed in earnest, the Formula One circus will push a post-lockdown re-set button to open the 2020 season in Austria on July 5. (Photo by LEONHARD FOEGER / AFP) (Photo by LEONHARD FOEGER/AFP via Getty Images)
Mercedes' British driver Lewis Hamilton (R) congratulates Mercedes' Finnish driver Valtteri Bottas after the qualifying round at the Austrian Formula One Grand Prix on July 4, 2020 in Spielberg, Austria. - Seven months after they last competed in earnest, the Formula One circus will push a post-lockdown re-set button to open the 2020 season in Austria on July 5. (Photo by LEONHARD FOEGER / AFP) (Photo by LEONHARD FOEGER/AFP via Getty Images)
Mercedes' British driver Lewis Hamilton reacts after the qualifying round at the Austrian Formula One Grand Prix on July 4, 2020 in Spielberg, Austria. - Seven months after they last competed in earnest, the Formula One circus will push a post-lockdown re-set button to open the 2020 season in Austria on July 5. (Photo by LEONHARD FOEGER / AFP) (Photo by LEONHARD FOEGER/AFP via Getty Images)
Mercedes' British driver Lewis Hamilton (R) congratulates Mercedes' Finnish driver Valtteri Bottas after the qualifying round at the Austrian Formula One Grand Prix on July 4, 2020 in Spielberg, Austria. - Seven months after they last competed in earnest, the Formula One circus will push a post-lockdown re-set button to open the 2020 season in Austria on July 5. (Photo by LEONHARD FOEGER / AFP) (Photo by LEONHARD FOEGER/AFP via Getty Images)
Haas F1's Danish driver Kevin Magnussen steers his car in front of Alfa Romeo's Italian driver Antonio Giovinazzi during the qualifying round at the Austrian Formula One Grand Prix on July 4, 2020 in Spielberg, Austria. - Seven months after they last competed in earnest, the Formula One circus will push a post-lockdown re-set button to open the 2020 season in Austria on July 5. (Photo by Darko Bandic / POOL / AFP) (Photo by DARKO BANDIC/POOL/AFP via Getty Images)
Ferrari's German driver Sebastian Vettel steers his car during the qualifying round at the Austrian Formula One Grand Prix on July 4, 2020 in Spielberg, Austria. - Seven months after they last competed in earnest, the Formula One circus will push a post-lockdown re-set button to open the 2020 season in Austria on July 5. (Photo by LEONHARD FOEGER / POOL / AFP) (Photo by LEONHARD FOEGER/POOL/AFP via Getty Images)
McLaren's British driver Lando Norris steers his car during the third practice session at the Austrian Formula One Grand Prix on July 4, 2020 in Spielberg, Austria. - Seven months after they last competed in earnest, the Formula One circus will push a post-lockdown re-set button to open the 2020 season in Austria on July 5. (Photo by Darko Bandic / POOL / AFP) (Photo by DARKO BANDIC/POOL/AFP via Getty Images)
AlphaTauri's French driver Pierre Gasly steers his car during the third practice session at the Austrian Formula One Grand Prix on July 4, 2020 in Spielberg, Austria. - Seven months after they last competed in earnest, the Formula One circus will push a post-lockdown re-set button to open the 2020 season in Austria on July 5. (Photo by Mark Thompson / POOL / AFP) (Photo by MARK THOMPSON/POOL/AFP via Getty Images)
Ferrari's German driver Sebastian Vettel steers his car during the third practice session at the Austrian Formula One Grand Prix on July 4, 2020 in Spielberg, Austria. - Seven months after they last competed in earnest, the Formula One circus will push a post-lockdown re-set button to open the 2020 season in Austria on July 5. (Photo by Mark Thompson / POOL / AFP) (Photo by MARK THOMPSON/POOL/AFP via Getty Images)
Red Bull's Thai driver Alex Albon steers his car during the third practice session at the Austrian Formula One Grand Prix on July 4, 2020 in Spielberg, Austria. - Seven months after they last competed in earnest, the Formula One circus will push a post-lockdown re-set button to open the 2020 season in Austria on July 5. (Photo by JOE KLAMAR / various sources / AFP) (Photo by JOE KLAMAR/AFP via Getty Images)
Red Bull's Thai driver Alex Albon steers his car during the third practice session at the Austrian Formula One Grand Prix on July 4, 2020 in Spielberg, Austria. - Seven months after they last competed in earnest, the Formula One circus will push a post-lockdown re-set button to open the 2020 season in Austria on July 5. (Photo by Mark Thompson / POOL / AFP) (Photo by MARK THOMPSON/POOL/AFP via Getty Images)
Red Bull's Thai driver Alex Albon steers his car during the third practice session at the Austrian Formula One Grand Prix on July 4, 2020 in Spielberg, Austria. - Seven months after they last competed in earnest, the Formula One circus will push a post-lockdown re-set button to open the 2020 season in Austria on July 5. (Photo by LEONHARD FOEGER / POOL / AFP) (Photo by LEONHARD FOEGER/POOL/AFP via Getty Images)
Red Bull's Dutch driver Max Verstappen steers his car during the third practice session at the Austrian Formula One Grand Prix on July 4, 2020 in Spielberg, Austria. - Seven months after they last competed in earnest, the Formula One circus will push a post-lockdown re-set button to open the 2020 season in Austria on July 5. (Photo by JOE KLAMAR / various sources / AFP) (Photo by JOE KLAMAR/POOL/AFP via Getty Images)
McLaren's Spanish driver Carlos Sainz Jr steers his car during the third practice session at the Austrian Formula One Grand Prix on July 4, 2020 in Spielberg, Austria. - Seven months after they last competed in earnest, the Formula One circus will push a post-lockdown re-set button to open the 2020 season in Austria on July 5. (Photo by JOE KLAMAR / various sources / AFP) (Photo by JOE KLAMAR/POOL/AFP via Getty Images)
Red Bull's Dutch driver Max Verstappen steers his car during the second practice session at the Austrian Formula One Grand Prix on July 3, 2020 in Spielberg, Austria. - Seven months after they last competed in earnest, the Formula One circus will push a post-lockdown re-set button to open the 2020 season in Austria on July 5. (Photo by Mark THOMPSON / POOL / AFP) (Photo by MARK THOMPSON/POOL/AFP via Getty Images)
Racing Point's Canadian driver Lance Stroll steers his car during the second practice session at the Austrian Formula One Grand Prix on July 3, 2020 in Spielberg, Austria. - Seven months after they last competed in earnest, the Formula One circus will push a post-lockdown re-set button to open the 2020 season in Austria on July 5. (Photo by Mark THOMPSON / POOL / AFP) (Photo by MARK THOMPSON/POOL/AFP via Getty Images)
SPIELBERG, AUSTRIA - JULY 05: The Scuderia AlphaTauri team push a car in the Pitlane during the Formula One Grand Prix of Austria at Red Bull Ring on July 05, 2020 in Spielberg, Austria. (Photo by Peter Fox/Getty Images)
SPIELBERG, AUSTRIA - JULY 05: The rear left tyre of Daniil Kvyat of Russia driving the (26) Scuderia AlphaTauri AT01 Honda explodes during the Formula One Grand Prix of Austria at Red Bull Ring on July 05, 2020 in Spielberg, Austria. (Photo by Mark Thompson/Getty Images)
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It is expected that a number are ready to adopt the gesture. However, it is thought at least a quarter of the grid are uneasy about doing it due to the political outlook of the Black Lives Matter movement.

There was also a feeling of disappointment in some quarters that Hamilton called out drivers who had chosen not to post an anti-racism message on social media. "I know who you are and I see you," Hamilton wrote last month.

"We spoke a bit in the drivers' briefing, yep, interesting," added Hamilton with a heavy hint of sarcasm.

"I don't know what we will see tomorrow. Potentially, people will pay their respects in their own way.

"I just described that silence is complicit and there is still silence in some cases. So, I thanked those that have said something on their social media platforms – because they have a great voice – and encouraged the others that have not, to say something.

"It is about helping people understand because there are people who don't fully understand what is happening, and the reasons behind these protests. I try to continue to guide and influence as many people as I can with it."

The teams are set to leave their drivers to make up their own minds, while the FIA insists it is not the job of the sporting federation to instruct the drivers on what is essentially a political decision.

But the divided grid could leave the sport in the embarrassing position of some drivers taking a knee, and others not, in the minutes before the first global sporting event of the Covid-19 era.

All drivers have agreed to wear End Racism t-shirts when they line up for the Austrian national anthem. A banner displaying the same message will also be prominent.

Hamilton, the sport's sole black driver, has been extremely vocal on the topic of racism in recent weeks. But then, in a seemingly contradictory statement, the 35-year-old refused to confirm whether he would even take a knee.

"I don't have any plans at the moment," said Hamilton. "I have not thought that far forward. I am sure over the course of this evening I will."

Hamilton's Mercedes team are racing in an all-black livery this year to send a defiant message against racism.

They have dominated all weekend here at the delayed season opener – but it was Bottas who upset the odds to beat Hamilton to first place on the grid. The Finn was just 12 hundredths of a second quicker than the Briton.

Red Bull's Max Verstappen finished third, albeit half-a-second down on the dominant black machines, with young Briton Lando Norris delivering the best performance of his career to qualify fourth for McLaren.

Ferrari headed into the new campaign fearing they would be trailing the big-hitting teams. And their dread was confirmed here when Sebastian Vettel was eliminated from the second phase of qualifying.

The four-time world champion, who will be moved on by the Scuderia at the end of the year, qualified only 11th, 1.2 seconds off the pace. His team-mate Charles Leclerc sneaked through to the top-10 shoot-out but will line up only seventh.

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