Haas rookie Nikita Mazepin explained why for the first time this season he chose to kneel along with several of his colleagues ahead of last Sunday’s Spanish GP.
Since last year, at the instigation of Lewis Hamilton, more than half of F1’s drivers have followed the ritual of taking a knee during the pre-race grid ceremonial in solidarity with the Black Lives Matter movement.
Mazepin refrained from the observance in the first three races of 2021, but in Barcelona the 22-year-old Russian unexpectedly joined those who routinely kneel on the grid at each race.
However, the Haas driver’s gesture was not associated with BLM or an act to protest social injustice.
“I decided to kneel to show respect to those veterans and people who lost their lives 76 years ago in the war,” Mazepin said, referring to Victory Day, a holiday in Russia that commemorates the surrender of Nazi Germany in 1945.
“This holiday is quite important,” the young driver told Match TV.
“My family – my grandparents – took part in the war. Yesterday I saw the statistics saying that it is a holiday that is even more important to Russians than New Year.”
On the grid, Mazepin also wore a Russian military symbol, the Ribbon of St George, on his ‘WeRaceAsOne’ t-shirt.
One could argue that you cannot choose the cause you kneel for, as the gesture is so intertwined with the protest against the unfair treatment of black people.
But Mazepin appears to only follow his own interpretation of acts and events.