Six of the 20 drivers in the Austrian Grand Prix declined to take a knee to protest racial injustice ahead of Sunday's Formula One race.
The sport promoted the anti-racism message in support of the Black Lives Matter protests in the United States, but acknowledged drivers had "the freedom to show their support for ending racism in their own way and will be free to choose how to do this," per Nate Saunders of ESPN.
Verstappen and Leclerc explained their thought processes on Twitter Sunday:
Max Verstappen @Max33Verstappen
I am very committed to equality and the fight against racism. But I believe everyone has the right to express themself at a time and in a way that suits them. I will not take the knee today but respect and support the personal choices every driver makes #WeRaceAsOne #EndRacism
Charles Leclerc @Charles_Leclerc
I believe that what matters are facts and behaviours in our daily life rather than formal gestures that could be seen as controversial in some countries. I will not take the knee but this does not mean at all that I am less committed than others in the fight against racism.
Lewis Hamilton is the sport's only black driver and kneeled while wearing a shirt that read "Black Lives Matter."
Hamilton, who is the reigning world champion in Formula One after an impressive 2019 season, spoke to his fellow drivers in a briefing Saturday while asking them to use their platform to speak out against racism.
"I still think there's people that don't fully understand what's happening and the reason for the protest," he said. "So I continue to try and be that guider, and influence as many people as I can with it."
The Austrian Grand Prix is the first event of the 2020 season after the schedule was changed due to the coronavirus pandemic. The drivers will remain on the same track for the Styrian Grand Prix set for next weekend.