F1 drivers call for measures to end social media hate and abuse

F1 drivers call for measures to end social media hate and abuse

Social media has turned putrid in every corner of society, cancer that afflicts Formula 1 too, to the point that increasingly calls are being made by drivers for authorities and social media companies to reign in the culprits – Max Verstappen and George Russell among them.

Calls are being made for governments to levy stiff fines (100-million dollar style fines) to the likes of Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and other major social media companies that do not do enough to trace, weed-out and control the abuse and hate speech common on posts.

After Zandvoort, ridiculous conspiracy theories surfaced suggesting Red Bull and AlphaTauri colluded to deny Mercedes a crack at victory. A day earlier it was Sergio Perez’s Red Bull that scuppered the final fast laps of George Russell and Lewis Hamilton.

Racing incidents both, despite the Yuki Tsunoda incident verging on lunacy, yet keyboard warriors unleashed venom.

Mercedes team boss Toto Wolff slammed the scourge in the team’s Zandvoort post-race-report: “Emotions were running high on social media after the last race, but hate speech and abuse directed at our Team and our competitors have no place in F1. We compete hard on the track but we always have respect for our rivals.”

Drivers are increasingly perturbed by the vehemence online

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This is all not going down well with the team’s young star George Russell told reporters, ahead of this weekend’s Italian Grand Prix at Monza: “It’s incredibly horrible to see this continue week after week, depending on what the latest news is.

“There’s too much of it for…I don’t think we as an organisation can [do anything]. It needs to go beyond, the people who run the social media channels, and governments.

“There’s just so much of it out there, and we are all doing as much as we can to get these accounts reported. We, as a team, are working with an organisation to try and limit this, so that’s something we are doing.

“But ultimately it doesn’t stop that person behind a computer from sending out that tweet or post, or whatever. The message to anyone is if you are thinking of posting anything, you need to think twice. Are you going to add in a positive or negative way? If it’s going to be a negative way, don’t do it.

“It is a shame to see that,” lamented Russell.

World Champion Max Verstappen, who cruised to victory from pole position in Holland, said the abuse directed at Red Bull’s principal strategy engineer Hannah Schmitz was “terrible” and called for action from authorities and the sport.

Verstappen: There needs to be a lot more addressing on hate

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He told reporters in Italy that social media giants need to be accountable for the content that make them what they are: “It seems like these companies, they put a bit of focus on it, but it’s still not enough because you can create other kinds of accounts and you can just keep on going.

“Even if they block your IP address, you can do it somewhere else. People are smart enough to go around it. So definitely they need to come up with a solution for that because of course social media is growing.

“I think in general it’s a great thing and a great tool to have but some parts of it are a bit negative,” added Verstappen, the reigning F1 World Champion.

As for the Dutch Grand Prix being rigged, which the conspiracy theorists claim, he said:  “Just ridiculous. What other people say on social media, at the end of it, doesn’t really bother us. But it should really not happen in the first place and that’s what you try to address and you try to stress as well.

“Hopefully in a few years’ time these things are not possible anymore to do. And then besides that we were a strong team and we are very happy to be here and we just focus on our job.”