Sergio Perez wants lifetime bans for hooligans at Formula 1 races with seven-time champion Lewis Hamilton calling for the sport to band together to stamp out the boorish behaviour that marred recent race weekends… and they are not alone.
Drivers and teams were shocked during the Austrian Grand Prix two weeks ago when a fan used social media to make F1 aware of rampant harassment, sexism, racism, and homophobia in the grandstands of the Red Bull Ring. Hooligans were now part of F1.
F1 condemned the behaviour hours before the start of the race and said it had discussed the problems with the race promoter; F1’s statement did not offer fans a mechanism to report problems during the race.
As the series shifted to the French Grand Prix, Perez and Hamilton were among the many drivers Thursday who insisted the poor behaviour must be firmly addressed.
Red Bull driver Perez said: “Those fans don’t represent us as a sport, they don’t share our values and they’re not welcome here. As simple as that.
“We should hopefully ban them for life, don’t welcome them again. I think a few fans shouldn’t even be allowed to embarrass our sport like that.”
Hamilton: We need to do more
During qualifying in Austria, Hamilton was jeered when he crashed his Mercedes; he revealed that F1 CEO Stefano Domenicali is working on a solution: “I know F1 and Stefano are really focused on doing more, and definitely taking it seriously, especially after the last race.
“Not only us, the sport, but (media) that are coming that write and report what is happening here. Your words are powerful and you have a responsibility also to the readers,” ventured the Briton.
F1 should “continue to take a stand” against such behaviour, Hamilton added, and noted soccer has taken proactive measures against hooligans and troublemaking louts. Soccer tries to combat crowd abuse by broadcasting anti-discrimination messages before matches.
“I think football has done some positive things, in terms of the announcements they made before. Every team, every company here, can do more. There must be 1,000 partners within the F1 organization, or hundreds maybe, and it’s about accountability with all those,” explained Hamilton.
French driver Pierre Gasly agreed on life bans for those caught abusing others: “What we saw last weekend is sad and I don’t think it represents the core value of our sport and the true fans. There should be accountability for such abuses.
“I think this goes back to education. It’s not like it’s happening every weekend, but these abuses should never happen on track and if you behave like that you should be banned,” added Gasly.
No place for hooligans in the F1 stands
Four-time F1 champion Sebastian Vettel praised those who reported the abuse, which he believes has been prevalent for years but now brought to light by a social-media-savvy younger fan base: “I think there has been a shift in fan base.”
When asked if he thought the level of hostility could escalate, Vettel said it’s more a case of it coming to light more: “I think the truth, unfortunately, is that probably it has been going for on a long time at all major sports events or big events.
“It’s more than about time that these things are changing, because there’s just no space for such things,” added Vettel.
Spectators in Austria cheered Hamilton’s crash at the Red Bull Ring in Spielberg — where sections of world champion Max Verstappen’s devoted “Orange Army” have their own grandstand.
One week earlier, Verstappen and his Red Bull boss Christian Horner were booed by a pro-Hamilton crowd at Silverstone during the British Grand Prix.
Mick Schumacher and Fernando Alonso are 17 years apart and from different generations. But they agree on this: social media companies must do far better to eradicate the spread of abuse online that then swirls back at sporting events, and elsewhere.
Alonso: It’s between everyone to make this sport a better place
In his second year in F1, 23-year-old Schumacher said of the hooligans: “I think it’s not only us but also social media platforms that have to control that better, so there’s no space for that.
“Address is at soon as it happened. This is something which should be unacceptable anywhere, not only in our sport, but in society. We’re in 2022 and we still have those issues, so it’s definitely concerning.”
Alonso, a two-time F1 champion, agreed: “This is a very good point (about) social media. It’s not just drivers, promoters or teams, it’s between everyone to make this sport a better place.”
Aggressive fan behaviour should not be so prevalent at the Paul Ricard circuit at Le Castellet in southeastern France. The track is not a hotbed for fans of either Verstappen or Hamilton.
But the Hungarian Grand Prix follows France, and last year Hamilton was jeered at the Hungaroring following a dramatic first-lap crash with Verstappen at Silverstone.
There is a midseason break following Hungary and the season resumes in Belgium and the Netherlands, races packed with Orange Army.