Top Formula 1 (F1) drivers and officials have condemned alleged homophobic and racist abuse reported by fans at last weekend’s Austrian Grand Prix. Lewis Hamilton posted an Instagram story before the race on July 9 saying he was “disgusted and disappointed” to hear of the harassment, while Max Verstappen and Sebastian Vettel also spoke out against the incident.
A number of allegations emerged across the weekend of the Austrian Grand Prix, with fans in Spielberg taking to social media to share their experiences. One Twitter user wrote: “The behaviour has been… disappointing. my expectations were low, but holy cow, racist, homophobic slurs, cat calling, inappropriate talking and touching the list goes on.”
Another said: “Genuinely had to fight off a panic attack and not cry the whole walk back to the exit bc I was scared. We’re coming back for the race tomorrow, but we are never coming back to this Grand Prix ever again, and that’s a promise.”
According to The Guardian, one attendee also revealed that “five Dutch fans” of Max Verstappen were shouting racial slurs towards his rival Lewis Hamilton and his supporters.
It's incredibly disheartening to see how many people are reporting harassment at the #AustrianGP.
If you see anyone being subjected to abhorrent behaviour, please try and do these 3 things: 🧵
— Jess McFadyen (@JessMcF1) July 10, 2022
“Disgusted and disappointed to hear that some fans are facing racist, homophobic and generally abusive behaviour at the circuit this weekend,” Hamilton wrote on Instagram prior to Sunday’s race.
“Attending the Austrian Grand Prix or any GP should never be a source of anxiety and pain for fans and something must be done to ensure the races are safe spaces for all.
“Please, if you see this happening, report it to circuit security and to @f1, we cannot sit back and allow this to continue,” the Mercedes driver concluded.
— Thecollegedropout (@thecollegedrop3) July 10, 2022
After finishing third, he added: “I arrived with a really positive mindset this morning and then I heard some of the things that have been said. I was in shock and really sad. People arrive to celebrate, have a great time, and enjoy a great experience.
“In the UK, there is a wide range of fans, but here you have a lot of the Orange Army. To know that someone sitting in a crowd, who is supporting someone else, is receiving abuse, it is crazy to think we are experiencing those sorts of things in 2022,” he continued in reference to Verstappen’s fans.
“We have to do more and it highlights that it is still an issue all over and it comes down to education. We have to work together to use our platforms to spread that positive word because people should come here and should feel safe and included.
“You should be able to follow whoever. It shouldn’t matter on your gender, your sexuality or the colour of your skin.”
Approximately 60,000 fans are said to have travelled from Holland to support Max Verstappen racing at Red Bull’s home circuit, and it is members of this group that are accused of the abuse.
“It is not good and these things shouldn’t happen. I read a few shocking things and that is clearly not OK,” Verstappen said in response.
“I shouldn’t need to say this, it should be a general understanding that this shouldn’t happen. A normal human being shouldn’t think like that or behave like it.”
Red Bull boss Christian Horner also added to the conversation, saying: “There is no place for it in racing or society as a whole […] We value inclusion and want a safe space for fans to enjoy our sport.”
Four-time world champion and current Aston Martin driver Sebastian Vettel said: “Whoever these people are, they should be ashamed of themselves and they should be banned from racing events for their lives.”
F1 officials have launched an investigation into the reports, deeming the harassment “completely unacceptable”.
— Formula 1 (@F1) July 10, 2022
“We take these matters very seriously, have raised them with the promoter and event security, and will be speaking to those who reported the incidents. This kind of behaviour is unacceptable and will not be tolerated,” the organisation stated.
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