TeamTalk: Hooligans in F1 and stopping the cancer

sports hooligans light flares f1

Formula 1 was blighted this weekend during the 2022 Austrian Grand Prix, spectators tarnished what is usually a great weekend in ‘Sound of Music Country’ turning it into a cesspool of abuse and brawls as hooligans gate crash the party.

No matter how you look at it, this year’s race in Austria was overshadowed first by spectators cheering Lewis Hamilton’s crash during qualifying on Friday.

Then it got worse before the race reports emerged of fans in orange using racial and homophobic slurs, instigating brawls and harassing women at the campsite, when alcohol invaded too many brains on a cold Saturday night.

The actions of (supposedly) a few have been roundly condemned, Verstappen himself calling them out as n”not true fans of F1″ despite them being identified as Dutch and invariably his supporters.

World Champion drivers, F1 officials, team bosses and just about every pundit has roundly condemned the nasty shenanigans that stole the limelight from what a glorious Grand Prix weekend at Red Bull’s home race, Verstappen winning the Sprint Race and karmically losing it to Charles Leclerc on Sunday when the big points were being dished out.

The saga has troubled us at GRANDPRIX247, prompting this TeamTalk on how to tackle the growing problem of hooligans in F1 grandstands. Here is what our crew has to say on the matter.

David Terrien: We need real Fans, not hooligans.

Ferrari flags fans China

Seeing fans around the track having them wearing their favourite drivers’ colours and being loud is part of any sport. Motorsport remained a very polished sport for years in terms of fans’ behaviour but we should consider two main elements here.

The first one is that Max Verstappen is our reigning F1 World Champion and he has a massive crowd of fans, and these are not any fans, this is a Dutch crowd and they always have been special.

I remember racing at the F3 Marlboro Masters in Zandvoort in 1998 and at that time Max’s dad Joss was racing in F1 for Stewart but was invited as a guest to do a few F1 start simulations and a hot lap in a Arrows if I am not mistaken.

The Marlboro Masters always gathered a massive crowd and you should have seen the main strat/finish grandstand shouting and cheering for their national hero while Jos was performing doughnuts down the start and finish line.

I can still remember the commentator shouting in the PA system: « Who is the boss » and a crazy crowd of more than 100,000 fans speaking as one and answering: “Joss!”

The Dutch has always enjoyed motorsport four and two wheels and they always have been a very enthusiastic crowd for their man. It was great to witness and be part of.

The second element to consider here is that F1 opened up to a very new crowd since Netflix made it more popular. This new crowd has different standards and collectively sees F1 as any other sport where actors, performers, drivers, teams can be booed. Hooliganism.

Don’t forget that even the supposedly ‘slick’ British crowd also booed Verstappen, this year and last year, and hooliganism is rooted and very present in the European football culture, British football particularly afflicted by the epidemic in the seventies and eighties.

Of course, F1 is not football but we can’t deny that we have attracted a different crowd and now exposed the sport to such unacceptable and never before seen in F1 behaviour.

I am personally not for it, I don’t like the booing, I don’t like not being able to watch the start of a race properly because the track is obstructed with orange smoke, yet I love the crowd around the tracks.

I love the fans. I can still remember my first Le Mans and facing the crowd while 300,000 fans were singing national anthems, this gives you goosebumps and this is what you want.

You want the crowd to sing and cheer, you don’t want it to boo. You want to see the smoke and smell the barbecues, you don’t want the orange smoke.

The trolls and bad elements tend to be a minority that can be rooted out or at least minimised as they did in football and all other sports that suffered similar issues, so real motorsport fans can enjoy some of the greatest years I have seen F1.

In conclusion, as I said we need fans, not hooligans!

Kevin Melro: They paid to show up, they’re in the care and control of the facility including F1 and they qualify as “fans”

orange army verstappen vettel zero tolerance

Unfortunately, what appeared to be good fun at face value was anything but during the Austrian GP as news broke of extremely unpleasant experiences mainly transcribed by women who attended the Red Bull Ring facility.

On Saturday night I stumbled upon the Twitter feed of @MotoMel89 which called out F1, the FIA among others and became a bit of a transcript for the flood of complaints; have a look if you’re willing to be disgusted.

“While it’s difficult for me to initially fault anybody with the exception of those who created the negative atmosphere, I do find some fault in some of the handlings of the situation from the series as a whole with some attempting to alienate themselves from the fans.

F1 wouldn’t exist without the fans good or bad, but some of the glaring issues and concerns of those raising the issues were devalued by some key prominent figures attempting to portray the trouble makers as people who are not fans.

Hooligans? I have news for you, they paid to show up, they’re in the care and control of the facility including F1 and they qualify as “fans” whether the F1 community likes it or not, they represent the final product.

Trying to isolate the troublemakers and separate the series and its individuals contradicts F1’s self-imposed key goals through #WeRaceAsOne, a program principally founded in the concept of love. Instead many just literally ran away from the problem.

The issues have been recognized by all parties but now comes action. Immediately, the FIA, F1 and the circuit promoter need to work out a system in which to allow fans a method to convey these issues in a form that enables the proper personnel or security to quell problematic hot spots in a fair and timely manner.

What transpires thereafter in terms of punishment, from day bans, permanent bans, police intervention etc. Having fans express personal abusive experiences through social media publicly displays a complete lack of control from the race promoter, the series and its officials.

This really is a first for the sport in many respects, fair enough, lesson learned, now it’s time to make sure it never happens again.

Jad Mallak: I am not sure it can be fully eradicated

The reports about some fans abusing their fellow race attendees at the Austrian Grand Prix have been pretty disturbing, and for all the years that I have watched and followed F1, never did I recall an issue as such.

And to be honest that is not a simple problem to handle, as so many factors play a role in it happening, from culture to excessive alcohol consumption – both of which are not excuses to misbehave – to many others.

But first let me say this; it is not fair to brand a whole crowd, whatever colour they wear at a certain race in a certain country by the repulsive actions of some of the few individuals within the group, so avoiding stereotyping – also not correct – is necessary.

As for how to deal with it, I am not sure it can be fully eradicated, but what would be an appropriate action against such phenomena, is to allocate a part of the venue’s security team to look into complaints from abused fans on the spot, while raising awareness on code of conducts as well as encouraging people to report any incidents of that kind immediately.

Again, these are quite disturbing actions, and should not be tolerated, especially when we know families as a whole attend F1 races, and should not be subjected to any harassment.

Paul Velasco: Proven security solutions are the best way to combat age-old sporting problem of hooliganism

Police stop 28 Coventry football fans travelling to World Cup - hooligans

I love the Orange Army. Every time they release a flare I think of what a phenomenon Max Verstappen is for F1, and we are witnessing the kind of greatness we will talk about forever.

That a few rabble-rousers, trailer park trash, anarchists, dick-heads, twats, hooligans – you name it – spoil it for true F1 fans, spoil it for Max, spoil it for Red Bull Racing, spoil it for Red Bull Ring and of course trash F1 at the same time.

So simply cut out the cancer by proper policing and let the majority of good folks, which no doubt is the case with the Orange Army, not be tarnished by one putrid brush dripping hate with no place in our society let alone our sport.

Proven security solutions are the best way to combat an age-old sporting problem – hooligans – which has largely been eradicated in and around stadiums where the clashes were turning football (soccer) in the Uk into an unwatchable sport.

CCTV, effective policing and a visible security presence will go a long way to diffusing the problem. As in stadiums and concerts, before the first and final songs, security personnel are deployed to watch the crowd.

Identify the trouble makers, arrest them on the spot and escort them to the closest nearby police station. Like all trolls they eventually cower away seeking other riper pastures to infuse their hate.

Also engage the stands, spray cool water as they do at Interlagos to turn down the heat, have undercover security agents with powers to remove from seats and expel from track.

Also, clandestine security presence in campsites is also advisable because that’s where the big drinking and stupidity happens on GP weekends.

And finally, the Orange Army have to police themselves. If a Max supporter among the real fans in Orange are up to no good, the really true fans should put them in place, or point them out as troublemakers or just simply make them unwelcome.

In the end, these hooligans are simply trolls, intent on creating havoc within unsuspecting communities, if they were not causing mayhem at the venue – those that can write – would be spewing hate on their keyboards and with it tarnishing everything about our sport, including Verstappen, the F1 World Champion they claim to support.

Red Mist author Michelle Lupini summed up his solution for the F1 hooligans: “Soccer has it right. Stuff around, be a pig and they got your picture. No more going back to the footie. Shouldn’t be that difficult in F1. Blacklist the bastards. Just as Seb suggests. Ban them. it’s that simple.”

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