Lewis Hamilton celebrated the 85th victory of his Formula One career by performing a Black Power salute – and then vowed to spend the rest of his life fighting racism.
In the moments after a truly dominant performance to win the Styrian Grand Prix, Hamilton stood on top of his black Mercedes car, clenching his right fist in the air.
Then, after collecting his winner’s silverware, Hamilton, now with his helmet off, looked down on the tarmac. Holding the gold trophy in his left hand, he sent his clenched right fist skywards.
Hamilton’s powerful celebrations against the backdrop of the Styrian Mountains were a nod in the direction of African-American 200m runners’ Tommie Smith and John Carlos – who first performed the anti-racism gesture after taking gold and bronze respectively at the 1968 Olympic Games in Mexico.
Before the race, Hamilton took a knee for the second week in a row. He was joined by 11 of the 20 drivers in what is becoming an increasingly uncomfortable image for the sport’s bosses.
Hamilton and his Mercedes team-mate Valtteri Bottas took the lead in dropping to the tarmac, but some drivers stood, some arrived late, and others were not even there.
The grid is appearing increasingly divided on the subject. It should also be noted that the TV feed bizarrely cut to a Red Bull parachutist as Hamilton, wearing a Black Lives Matter T-Shirt, knelt.
“We spoke about it in the drivers’ briefing and what we intended to do,” said Hamilton. “Some were asking how long we have to continue to do this. Some felt like doing it once last week was enough.
“I just had to encourage them and say that racism is going to be around for longer than our time here.
“People of colour who are subjected to racism don’t have time to take a moment to protest once and then for that to be it.
“We have to continue to push for equality and raise awareness. For me personally, it is going to be a lifelong thing.”
F1 chairman Chase Carey has vowed to put in US dollars 1million of his own money to improve diversity in the sport he rules. The FIA has also pledged more than £900,000.
But Hamilton, 35, added: “Although it is great to see Chase being so kind to donate the million dollars, and it has been great to see the FIA step up, if you don’t know the problem you don’t fix it, and a million dollars doesn’t go that far.
“A lot of work needs to go on in Formula One and the FIA really needs to be a part of it – and the drivers, too because we all have great platforms.”
Following his poor performance at the same venue last weekend, Hamilton has been in mesmerising form at Spielberg’s Red Bull Ring this weekend. He laid the groundwork for Sunday’s triumph with quite possibly his greatest performance over one lap in Saturday’s rain-hit qualifying session.
Hamilton finished 1.2 seconds faster than anyone else at a track with just 10 corners. On Sunday, he roared away from his starting marks and never looked back – taking the chequered flag 13.7sec clear of Bottas.
Bottas completed a one-two for Mercedes when he overtook Red Bull’s Max Verstappen with just four laps remaining. And it is the Finn who holds a six-point lead over Hamilton in the championship ahead of next week’s Hungarian Grand Prix.
Red Bull driver Alexander Albon finished fourth, while Lando Norris turned in another impressive display for McLaren.
The 20-year-old, who last week became the youngest Briton to stand on a grand prix podium, overtook both Racing Point cars on the last lap, Sergio Perez at the final bend, to finish fifth. He is now a nose-bleeding third in the standings.
Later on Sunday evening, Renault lodged a protest against the legality of the Racing Point cars.
The Silverstone-based team are widely believed to have modelled their design on last year’s all-conquering Mercedes machines. The stewards will now look into the matter.