CNN  — 

The Formula One grid was divided ahead of the sport’s return as several drivers, including Charles Leclerc and Max Verstappen, chose not to kneel in support of the Black Lives Matter movement.

All 20 drivers congregated on the start line before the Austrian Grand Prix, the first race of the season following the three-month delay due to the coronavirus pandemic.

Lewis Hamilton, who has been using his sizable platform to speak out against racial and social injustice, knelt on the front line wearing a Black Lives Matter T-shirt, while the rest of the drivers had “End Racism” written on theirs.

Before the race, Ferrari driver Leclerc posted a series of tweets explaining why he had chosen not to kneel alongside his peers.

“All 20 drivers stand united with their teams against racism and prejudice, at the same time embracing the principles of diversity, equality and inclusion, supporting Formula 1’s and FIA’s commitment,” he wrote.

“I believe that what matters are facts and behaviors 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.”

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Lewis Hamilton kneels ahead the Austrian Prix, but six drivers chose not to kneel.

Verstappen echoed Leclerc’s comments, writing: “I am very committed to equality and the fight against racism. But I believe everyone has the right to express themselves 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.”

In total six drivers chose not to kneel. The other four were Daniil Kvyat, Carlos Sainz, Antonio Giovinazzi and Kimi Raikkonen.

The different stances were particularly stark coming less than two weeks after Formula One launched its “We Race as One” initiative, which is aimed at tackling racism and inequality.

After the race, Hamilton told reporters he had previously tried to take a public stand against racism after being inspired by the kneeling protests of former NFL star Colin Kaepernick.

However, the 35-year-old said he was talked out of it, though he didn’t specifically say by whom.

“I thought that was a very powerful statement,” Hamilton said. “Then he lost his job and he was a great athlete. I spoke to him a couple of years ago shortly after that for the [2017] US Grand Prix.

“I had a helmet made in red for his top with his number on but back then I was kind of silenced. I was told to back down and ‘Don’t support it,’ which I regret. So it is important for me that during this time I did my part.”

After qualifying on Saturday, Hamilton said he was disappointed that some drivers hadn’t used their platforms to speak out against racism. However, the Briton said he didn’t ask any driver to kneel alongside him on the start line.