Jacques Villeneuve slammed the behaviour of spectators (aka hooligans) during the course of the 2022 Austrian Grand Prix weekend in which brawls, unruly behaviour and abuse were reported from sections of the Orange Army.
Unfairly, a malicious and criminal few have spoilt it for the Max Verstappen fans who travel to support the Red Bull driver in increasing numbers, and at more and more Grand Prix venues. That a few spoil the spectacle of this unique driver and his vibrant fanbase is sad and also worrisome.
Looking back on the three days at Red Bull Ring, 1997 Formula 1 World Champion Villeneuve did not mince his words in his Formule1 column this week: “Let me begin with the most embarrassing incident: the screaming fans when Lewis Hamilton crashed!
“No one knows how he is and yet they are clapping. Lewis isn’t even fighting Max this year, it was really embarrassing. You should never be cheering after a crash. I just don’t understand that type of behaviour. The people who come in are supposed to be fans of racing.
“Whatever you think inside, keep it to yourself. It’s bad enough if you think like that,” added Villeneuve.
The target of the fans last Sunday was Lewis Hamilton, but two weekends ago fans at Silverstone – his home race – behaved despicably towards Verstappen who drove his guts out on the weekend to entertain the fans, yet was booed and jeered after qualifying and then, a day later, when the #1 Red Bull struck problems during the race.
Hamilton: We’re better than that, we don’t need to boo
At the time, Hamilton stated: “We’re better than that so I would say we don’t need to boo but we have such great fans and they feel emotions.
“I don’t agree with booing, we should be here pushing everybody and it doesn’t make any difference if they have already made a mistake or whatever it is. I really appreciate the fans I have here and maybe some are still feeling the pain from last year still.”
Verstappen did not condone the latest round of boo-brigade antics, at Red Bull Ring, the majority in attendance were his supporters; of the 105,000 spectators reportedly at the track on Sunday, almost half were there for Max.
Neverthless the World Champion was unimpressed: “These things shouldn’t happen. I read a few things, a few shocking things. That’s clearly not OK.
“And I mean, I shouldn’t even need to say this. I think this should be a general understanding that these things shouldn’t happen. A normal human being, I think, should think like that and should behave like that,” added Verstappen.
Four-time F1 World Champion Sebastian Vettel lobbied for zero tolerance: “Whoever these people are, they should be ashamed of themselves and they should be banned from racing events for the rest of their lives. I think there should be zero tolerance.”