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Hamilton ‘stands unified’ with boycotting athletes but will race at Belgian GP

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Lewis Hamilton has lauded the “incredible” boycotts of sporting events in the United States after the shooting of Jacob Blake, but said it would achieve little if he did the same at Sunday’s Belgian Grand Prix.

On Wednesday evening, three NBA playoff games were postponed after players refused to take to the court. Fixtures in the WNBA, MLB and MLS were also postponed following similar boycotts. Tennis player Naomi Osaka withdrew from a tournament in New York; Hamilton wrote on Instagram that he was “so proud” of her decision.

Asked on Thursday whether he plans a similar protest for the Belgian GP, Hamilton, the only Black F1 driver in the sport’s history, said he stands unified with those taking action but that boycotting events was more relevant for American sports.

“Firstly, I think it is incredible what many out there in the States are doing in the sports all the way down to the people that are hosting, commentators for example,” he said. “So many people are standing.

“The players are really pushing for change. It’s a shame that’s what’s needed over there to get a reaction.

“But that is in America, and I don’t know whether me doing anything here will particularly have any effect. We’re in Belgium, we’re not in the United States. I haven’t spoken to anyone about it, but I am really proud of so many out there, and I do stand unified with them, trying to do what I can over here.

“I don’t really know how us not doing the race — and it would still go on — is a thing. But as I said, I will try to speak to Formula One to see what else we can do to continue to raise awareness, continue to help push. … Naturally, as a sport, we need to be aligned and supporting one another, even if it is a different sport.”

Hamilton holds a comfortable lead in the F1 drivers’ championship, sitting 37 points ahead of Red Bull’s Max Verstappen.

The question was also put to Ferrari’s Sebastian Vettel, who is one of the directors of the Grand Prix Drivers’ Association (GPDA), which has been responsible for planning the anti-racism protests ahead of each event this year.

Vettel said those protests, which allow drivers to express themselves on the issue however they see fit, will continue.

“We got together after the subject came up,” Vettel said. “It’s something humanity has been fighting for a long time, in terms of racism, inequality and various topics. We sent a strong message after the first event after a difficult time for everyone.

“Our feeling was very clear, that we want to continue sending that message. It’s one of those things, unfortunately, that doesn’t go away overnight. We felt strongly about it and wanted to continue.

“Obviously, whether some drivers were taking the knee or not taking the knee, it’s not relevant. What’s relevant is that we are all united and want continue sending a message because we believe it’s important. And that’s what we are doing.”

When asked about whether he could foresee F1 teams boycotting an event, Vettel said: “I think if so, it is something we would decide together. Generally, we talk about stuff, we talk about things that are going on and are important to us. I think we have grown together as a group of drivers — the more experienced drivers, the young drivers, we share our opinions.

“I don’t think it makes much sense now to go as far as that, as nothing is on the table, and there is no reason to boycott the race. But I’m sure if we are unhappy with something, we will talk about it and take actions accordingly.”

Renault’s Daniel Ricciardo said seeing other athletes taking a stand had only reiterated how important the issue is.

“It’s heavy,” he said. “I think seeing the other athletes take this sort of action, it shows to the extent of what it means to everyone and how far it’s spreading.”

He added: “You keep hearing these incidents. When’s it going to stop, when’s it enough? And it keeps seeming to happen and happen.

“So I think that’s why, at least in the sporting world, a lot of these athletes are now taking more drastic measures and boycotting and stuff like this. It’s getting pretty extreme, but I guess until there’s a change, you’re going to keep banging on the door until it falls down.”

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