Lewis Hamilton has demanded Formula One take action over the harassment of fans at the Austrian Grand Prix. F1 has condemned the behaviour, which included sexist catcalling, homophobic abuse and inappropriate touching of female fans, as unacceptable but Hamilton, who said he was shocked and saddened at what happened, was unequivocal in his insistence that words are not enough.
Reacting to the incidents, Hamilton’s team principal at Mercedes, Toto Wolff, was also blunt in his condemnation. “We just need to target these guys and pick them out,” he said. “This is what Formula One has said and we have said and that you need to report to the security if you can. And whoever reads my sentence: stay away, we don’t want you if you are part of that group. Fuck off.”
AN increasing number of reports were made on Sunday morning, citing aggressive misogyny towards female fans, with some spectators saying they felt scared by the atmosphere. Others referred to homophobic slurs and the use of the N-word. Many of the reports referenced the stands where Max Verstappen fans were gathered en masse.
Mercedes and Hamilton were particularly distressed at the experience of one fan who contacted them. Her words were published on Twitter. She described: “five Dutch Max fans lifted up my dress and when I confronted them they said that no Hamilton fan deserves any respect at all”. Mercedes contacted the woman in question and brought her to their garage to ensure her safety for the race.
On Instagram Hamilton had already expressed disgust at what was happening and went further after the race, which was won by Ferrari’s Charles Leclerc. “I arrived with a really positive mindset this morning and then I heard of some of the things that had been said. It was a shock and I was really sad,” he said. “Someone sitting in a crowd supporting someone and receiving abuse. It’s crazy to think we are still experiencing those things in 2022, we have to do more. It highlights it’s an issue all over and it comes down to education and ignorance. People should come here and feel included and follow who ever it is you want to follow. It should not matter about your gender, your sexuality, the colour of your skin.”
F1 issued a statement Sunday morning stating: “This kind of behaviour is unacceptable and will not be tolerated and all fans should be treated with respect.”
Lewis Hamilton has been instrumental in pushing for F1 to take action over diversity and inclusion, which resulted in the sport’s We Race As One initiative. However, the seven-time champion was highly critical of officials in making statements but failing to back them up with change. “It’s time for action,” he said.
“We race as one was all well and good but it was just words, it didn’t do anything. There was no funding toward anything, there was no programme to actually create change and spark that conversation. We need to utilise our platforms. We have to step up and action some of the things we are saying. Saying it is ‘unacceptable’ is not enough.”
Verstappen also condemned the behaviour on Sunday. “These things shouldn’t happen,” said the world champion. “I read a few shocking things that are clearly not OK. I should not even need to say this, it should be a general understanding that these things shouldn’t happen.”
Verstappen cited alcohol as potentially playing a role in the abuse, with clear evidence of excessive drinking taking pace at the circuit across the weekend.
F1 is understood to be pursuing a collective statement from all its drivers in which they condemn abuse online and at circuits and to call on fans to show respect to fellow supporters and drivers alike.