Vettel on F1 scrapping the knee: 'It was too strong for the business'


Sebastian Vettel has said he is surprised at F1's change of pre-race protocol, and has given his reasons on why the decision was taken

BUDAPEST, HUNGARY - AUGUST 01: Sebastian Vettel of Germany and Aston Martin wears a rainbow coloured t-shirt and face mask as he looks on from the grid before the F1 Grand Prix of Hungary at Hungaroring on August 01, 2021 in Budapest, Hungary. (Photo by Dan Istitene - Formula 1/Formula 1 via Getty Images)

Vettel has supported the LGTQ+ community visibly before races

Dan Istitene - Formula 1/Formula 1 via Getty Images

Sebastian Vettel has expressed his disappointment at Formula 1’s decision to pull the pre-race ceremony in which drivers could take the knee or make their own demonstration for social causes, saying that he was “surprised”, as well as feeling that it indicated F1 was worried it would be “too strong [a negative effect] on the business side of things.”

Over the last two years, athletes at sporting events around the world have been taking the knee in solidarity with the Black Lives Matter movement, but F1 announced two days ago that it would now not facilitate this before races, instead focusing on its own ‘We Race As One’ diversity and inclusion programme, as well as its engineering scholarship initiatives, which have been extended until 2025. CEO Stefano Domenicali labelled it a move “from gesture to action.” An anti-racism message will still be screened before each race.

“No, they just change,” Vettel said when asked if drivers were told there would be a rethink on protocol. “I think the issues that we’re tackling are not going to be gone within two years and therefore I was a bit surprised.”

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Domenicali gave the reason for the alteration two days ago when questioned by Sky Sports, partly pointing to F1 wanting not to be associated with “politics”.

“The [knee] gesture was important for the ones that believed that was an important gesture, because we need to respect everyone,” he said. “But now is the time to move on and take some other action. The action is the focus on the diversity of our community, and this is the first step.”

Vettel, along with vocal civil rights supporter Lewis Hamilton, who wore various pieces of clothing indicating solidarity with the LGBTQ+ movement throughout last year as well as taking the knee, said he was looking to himself and other drivers to come up with a new approach to the situation, whilst also putting forward his opinion on why taking the knee was stopped.

“I hope that as drivers we find a way to get together and find a slot of still expressing topics that are important to us,” he said. “Probably not all the drivers care, but I think there’s some that really do care, and it’ll be great to get together but probably [it] was getting a bit too strong and too individual for the business side of things.”