Lewis Hamilton used the stage for a victory that moved him to within a single triumph of Michael Schumacher’s record to demand the arrest of police officers involved in the killing of American Breonna Taylor.
On a frenzied afternoon for Formula One at the inaugural Tuscan Grand Prix, Hamilton overcame two red-flag periods to win for the 90th time in his career.
He will now match Schumacher’s record if he takes the chequered flag in Russia at the end of the month.
But Hamilton’s immediate afterthought following his landmark triumph was to highlight Taylor’s fate. The 26-year-old black woman was shot dead by police in her Louisville home exactly six months’ ago. The officers involved were serving a no-knock warrant.
Ahead of Sunday’s race, Hamilton took a knee wearing a black T-Shirt with the message ‘Arrest the cops who killed Breonna Taylor’. He then wore the T-shirt for his post-race interview, broadcast to millions around the world, before collecting the winner’s trophy and standing on the podium in the same clothing.
While F1 moved to distance themselves from Hamilton’s controversial message on Sunday night, the six-time world champion could yet find himself in hot water with its governing body the FIA – a non-political organisation.
“It took me a long time to get that shirt and I have been wanting to wear it,” explained Hamilton, who also secured a bonus point for the fastest lap to increase his lead in the championship to 55 points.
“I want to bring awareness to the fact that people are being killed on the street. There is someone who got killed in her own house and those guys are still walking free.
“We cannot rest. We have to continue to push on with the issue. No justice has been served. We won’t stay silent.”
Seven days after the thrills and spills of the Italian Grand Prix, the sport was treated to another vintage race here at Ferrari’s test track, 25 miles outside of Florence.
The safety car, painted red to honour Ferrari’s 1,000th race, was deployed after just two corners. It was hero to zero stuff for last week’s surprise winner, Pierre Gasly, after he became the unwanted meat in a Kimi Raikkonen-Romain Grosjean sandwich.
The Frenchman ended up in the gravel alongside Red Bull’s Max Verstappen, who was caught up in the accident after losing power off the line. Then Sebastian Vettel lost his front wing after he could do little to avoid McLaren’s spinning Carlos Sainz.
Seconds after the restart, the race was then suspended following a jaw-dropping four-car pile-up involving Nicholas Latifi, Antonio Giovinazzi, Kevin Magnussen and Sainz. The quartet escaped without injury but a 26-minute delay ensued to clear up the mess.
The dramatic opening exchanges wiped out almost a third of the 20-strong field, with Esteban Ocon the seventh casualty after he was unable to continue in his broken Renault.
The first red-flag period led to a standing start but after a poor getaway first-time round, Hamilton made no mistake on the second, moving into Valtteri Bottas’ slipstream before assuming the lead round the outside of the opening bend.
But it would not be plain sailing for Hamilton after the race was stopped for a second time with 16 laps left.
Lance Stroll lost control of his Racing Point through the second Arrabbiata, and crashed into the tyre wall. Stroll sustained serious damage to his car in the accident – which was caused by a left-front puncture – but the Canadian emerged unscathed from his cockpit.
Stroll’s stricken car was removed, the tyre barrier was repaired, and after a 23-minute stoppage, there was a third standing-start on this most frantic of autumnal days.
Hamilton raced away from his blocks to retain his lead but Bottas slipped behind Daniel Ricciardo. The Finn made it back past Ricciardo on the next lap but his best chance of beating Hamilton to the flag was over. He finished 4.8 seconds adrift of his team-mate.
Alexander Albon battled his way past Ricciardo at Turn 1 with eight laps remaining to claim a much-needed first podium.
A miserable weekend was completed for Ferrari with Charles Leclerc and Vettel finishing ninth and 10th of only 12 classified runners. Leclerc was bumped up to eighth after Raikkonen was hit with a five-second penalty but this was hardly the result the sport’s grandest team will have wanted on their anniversary.
After nine races in 11 whirlwind Sundays, the sport will now break off for a week before gathering at the Sochi Autodrome in Russia. It is there, on September 27, where Hamilton will be granted his first shot at equalling Schumacher’s record – the German claimed the last of his 91 wins at the Chinese Grand Prix in 2006.
“It just doesn’t seem real,” added the 35-year-old Hamilton. “Getting these wins is not easy, but I never thought I would be here, that’s for sure.”