Ferrari's Charles Leclerc: I'm tired of being called racist for not kneeling

Ferrari's Charles Leclerc said he is fed up with being labelled a racist for his decision not to take the knee ahead of Formula One races this year.

Leclerc is one of six drivers not to have taken the knee all season. F1 has allocated a time ahead of grand prix events for drivers to protest racism however they see fit. As with each of those who have stood, Leclerc has always worn an 'End Racism' T-shirt during those moments.

Ahead of the season-opening Austrian GP, Leclerc insisted he was committed to the fight against racism but said: "I believe that what matters are facts and behaviours in our daily life rather than formal gestures that could be seen as controversial in some countries".

The kneeling gesture has been a contentious issue for some drivers. Haas' Kevin Magnussen, who opted against taking a knee at the British Grand Prix -- joining the six drivers who already were abstaining -- said he had done so as he did not want to be associated with any political sentiments of groups such as Black Lives Matter.

On Thursday, ahead of this weekend's 70th Anniversary Grand Prix at Silverstone, Leclerc wrote a three-part message on Twitter.

"It is very sad to see how some people manipulate my words to make headlines making me sound like a racist," he said. "I am not racist and I absolutely hate racism. Racism is disgusting.

"Stop putting me in the same group as these disgusting people that are discriminating others because of their skin colour, religion or gender. I'm not part of them and I never will. I've always been respectful to everyone and that should be the standard in today's world.

"And to whoever is using my image to promote their wrong ideas, please stop. I'm not into politics and I don't want to be involved in that."

Leclerc later appeared in a virtual news conference ahead of the Silverstone race where he elaborated further.

When asked what had prompted his tweets, he replied: "Because I just don't want to be judged anymore.

"As I've said many times, I'm active on social media and I don't accept to be called the way I've been called in the last few weeks, negatively obviously, just because of not kneeling. I wanted to make a straightforward tweet just to express my feelings, and that's it."