Lewis Hamilton has dropped the strongest hint yet that he will not 'take a knee' prior to the United States Grand Prix in Austin this weekend, despite having previously come out in support of the protest against racial injustice and police brutality.
The symbolic display – first done by former San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick – has grown more widespread in recent weeks following criticism from President Donald Trump, who has called for the National Football League (NFL) to reprimand players who follow suit.
Hamilton was among the sportspeople to lend their support to NFL players, with various posts on social media relating to the gesture. The Briton had also said he would consider his position for when Star Spangled Banner is played before the race in Texas on Sunday [22 October].
Speculation over his intentions come against the backdrop of Hamilton's attempts to secure a fourth Formula One world drivers' title. Victory for the 31-year-old and title rival Sebastian Vettel finishing sixth or lower would deliver the championship for the Mercedes driver.
"Of course there's been a lot of mention of it, not of the kneeling, just of the whole situation," said Hamilton, when asked about his plans. "Obviously I know a lot of people here in America, I get to speak to a lot of black and white people who live here in America.
"So I get quite a good view of what's happening here in the States and options from Americans and about the movement, which I think is pretty huge. You've seen I've posted about it, I respect it highly, the movement that Kaepernick started I think is awesome.
"I don't really plan on allowing all the BS that's surrounding the topic pull me down in my strive to winning this world title. I've worked hard to be where I am today and whilst I do have opinions and feelings towards the whole situation as I said at the moment I have no plans to do anything."
The national anthem of the host nation is traditionally observed before every race on the Formula One calendar, with drivers obligated to stand at the front of the grid during every rendition. The FIA mandate demands that all drivers must gather and failure to do so could be accompanied by a punishment.
While Hamilton is bidding to become the most successful British F1 driver – he could pull away of three-time world champion Jackie Stewart this weekend – his profile in America also remains impressive. He has won five of the last six grand prix races stateside, including four of the five hosted at the Circuit of the Americas.
Furthermore, Hamilton's profile in the US has been boosted by his association with several high-profile celebrities. X Factor judge and singer Nicole Scherzinger used to date the driver, while he lists rapper Kanye West and actor Tom Cruise as friends; meaning he has a reputation and media image that could be compromised whatever his actions this weekend.