2017 F1

Wolff warns Hamilton not to protest during US anthem

Lewis Hamilton is not expecting to secure his fourth world title in Austin on Sunday despite beating title rival Sebastian Vettel to pole position following another brilliant performance on Saturday.

Hamilton’s nearest title rival Sebastian Vettel joined to the front row after improving from fourth to second with his final lap in the closing moments of qualifying, the smart money would be on Hamilton sealing his fourth title in Mexico a week on Sunday.

The Brit can win the title at the Circuit of the Americas if he must finish on top podium in Sunday’s race and Vettel fails to finish in the top five.

Meanwhile Mercedes boss Toto Wolff revealed he has warned Lewis Hamilton not to protest during the United States national anthem following a heart-to-heart discussion on a flight back from Japan.

Hamilton, Formula One’s first and only black champion, had considered following in the footsteps of a series of NFL players who have protested racial inequality in the country.

“The conclusion was that it is probably better not to do it.” – Toto Wolff

But on board Niki Lauda’s private jet – following the conclusion of the Japanese Grand Prix earlier this month – Wolff told Hamilton that he did not believe it would reflect positively on the Briton, or indeed the Mercedes brand.

“Lewis has good opinions and he and I discussed the issue on a flight back from Suzuka,” Wolff said on the eve of the United States Grand Prix.

“I feel very much aligned with him on human rights so from a personal perspective I could understand where he was coming from.

“But on the other side, we discussed that even if you feel strong about showing your support against racism and human rights, that it is not our country, it is not our anthem, and you are offending many Americans that have a strong view on the flag.

“The conclusion was that it is probably better not to do it.”

Colin Kaepernick, the former San Francisco 49ers quarterback who is now without a team, protested ethnic injustices in America last season by kneeling during the national anthem.

The movement has continued into the current NFL campaign, while German football side Hertha Berlin expressed their solidarity by kneeling before a 2-0 defeat against Schalke last weekend.

Trump has denounced the protests as unpatriotic and called on NFL franchises to fire or suspend players who do not stand during the Star-Spangled Banner and on fans to boycott matches.

“Lewis was personally confronted with racism as he was the only black kid on a go-kart track and that humiliation and trauma has shaped how he is today,” Wolff added. “That is why he has strong views and using your popularity to help fight racism is the right thing to do.

“But it would have certainly contributed to more polarisation against him and more controversy. Does he, and do we, as Mercedes, need to get involved in that discussion? No.”

Hamilton now has 306 points and Vettel, the only other man to have won at Austin’s Circuit of the Americas, has 247.



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