Lewis Hamilton and Romain Grosjean spoke for 45 minutes after the Hungarian Grand Prix to clear up a misunderstanding over Formula One’s ongoing anti-racism push.
Following the race in Budapest, Hamilton said that Grosjean, one of two directors of the Grand Prix Drivers’ Association (GPDA), was of the opinion F1 did not need to continue its anti-racism protests as it had already done it at the season opener in Austria. Some F1 drivers have taken the opportunity to kneel in support of the anti-racism movement ahead of each race, but in Hungary the moment was rushed and appeared to be poorly planned by the GPDA.
When asked ahead of this weekend’s British Grand Prix whether he had spoken with Hamilton regarding his comments, Grosjean replied: “Yes I have spoken to Lewis, we had a 45-minute phone call Tuesday after the race, a really good chat about many things and F1 in general, but obviously the subject was there.”
Grosjean said he had been trying to speak up on behalf of the drivers in the GPDA who held the viewpoint that the anti-racism protests did not need to continue. With his fellow director, Ferrari’s Sebastian Vettel, he had been pushing for the protests to continue, but Grosjean thought the opposing side of the argument needed a voice, something he no longer thinks was the right approach.
“It was a good chat with Lewis,” Grosjean said. “I said sorry, maybe I did it the wrong way, but I felt that I had to do it at the time.
“In the GPDA, we work on the majority vote system, and I felt that if I wasn’t, as one of the directors, listening to the drivers who were not happy to carry on, I wasn’t doing my duties. [Hamilton] mentioned that as one of the directors they’re listening to you, and that was his point, and I think he was right in that aspect.”
Speaking later in the afternoon, Hamilton praised Grosjean for the way he reached out and accepted fault.
“I was already impressed with our conversation that we had afterwards and his approach to our conversation,” Hamilton said. “He originally reached out to me to talk after the last race, so I gave him a call and we had this great conversation and ultimately it was quite informative for the both of us and we learned that we actually have more in common than we perhaps thought.
“He is clearly a caring person, so to hear that he said that, it is not easy, firstly, for anyone to admit that we are wrong and that’s a great first step. But the fact is, when we got off the phone I knew that we were united and we were going to be working towards the same common goal.
“I really, really appreciate Romain. That’s really what it’s going to take all of us to do, to open up our minds, don’t put up barriers or be defensive, be open-minded and acknowledging there is an issue is sometimes the first step and then how we can work towards making it better.”
As well as speaking to Grosjean, Hamilton took time to talk with GPDA chairman Alexander Wurz, FIA president Jean Todt, and F1 bosses Chase Carey and Ross Brawn to ensure everyone is on the same page.
Hamilton said: “At the last race I said I was going to speak to the heads of the sport and try to engage with them and see how we can move forward more united and better. I spent time talking to Alex, spoke to Jean and so we are all united at the GPDA. I spent time speaking to Jean, to Chase and Ross and had great conversations for them to understand what they are planning and want to do moving forward and just make sure they know that we are all in the same team here.
“Things like giving us that little bit of extra time before the race so we can really show how united we are as a sport because other sports have done a better job at consistently doing that. They have been really open-minded and I do think that it needs to continue during the year, and so I believe at the moment that is what we are going to continue to do.
“I think there has been some pushback from some teams maybe, but again, it is a work in progress to get us all together and I think it is going in the right direction.”
F1’s drivers have not all been unified in the act of kneeling, with six declining to do so at the opening events. While Grosjean said he hopes all 20 will take a knee together at some point in 2020, he does not think it is right to instruct drivers on what to do.
“Everyone has a different feeling, different way of expressing their feelings, so you cannot force anyone to do anything,” he said. “Their reasons are personal, it’s just a feeling. Your reason may be strong enough for you, but someone else doesn’t feel like it’s strong enough.
“Everyone has to do what’s right for them. Ideally it would be nice to have 20 drivers side by side taking the knee. Some other sports have done it. I’m not here to judge or say, it’s very personal, and everyone has the right to do what he feels like doing. But it would be nice to get there one day.”
Grosjean said the drivers will be given more time ahead of the British Grand Prix to carry out the anti-racism protest properly after the rushed and disorganised effort at the Hungarian Grand Prix was heavily criticised.