Toto Wolff called fans accused of harassment at the Austrian Grand Prix ‘brainless’ while Sebastian Vettel called for their lifetime ban after a weekend when Formula 1 was forced to issue a statement condemning abuse among the crowd as unacceptable.
The race at the Red Bull Ring, won by Charles Leclerc of Ferrari by Red Bull’s Max Verstappen, has been marred by a series of accusations of sexist calls, inappropriate touching of female fans and homophobic and racist abuse. There were 60,000 Dutch fans present in support of Verstappen and many reports referred to the stands where they were gathered.
Verstappen condemned the behavior just like Lewis Hamilton and Leclerc. Mercedes invited a woman who had been abused by what she claimed to be ‘five Dutch Max fans’, into their garage on race day to ensure her safety and Wolff insisted those responsible were giving a bad name to the vast majority of supporters. .
“It’s just that people are stupid,” said the Mercedes team principal. “I have no other explanation for people who abuse in any way, sexist, homophobic or racist – you are simply brainless. No alcohol can excuse this.
“Sport polarizes and triggers emotions, we want it. But again, we shouldn’t condemn them all, but kick those few idiots out. We must not give the impression of condemning a group of fans, because it is not. There are a few amoebas – people with only one cell – but let’s not generalize.
Vettel’s Aston Martin team also invited two fans, who had reported homophobic abuse, to their hospitality on Sunday for the race and the four-time champion felt F1 should act decisively to avoid further instances of harassment.
“Horrible, isn’t it?” ” he said. “It’s good that this stuff is coming out, it’s the start, but it’s awful. Whoever these people are, they should be ashamed of themselves and they should be banned from racing events for their lives. There should be zero tolerance.
“If people are having a good time and drinking too much, that’s okay, but that doesn’t justify or excuse bad behavior.”
Verstappen had cited alcohol consumption among some fans as playing a potential role, although he didn’t accept that as an excuse. It is understood that race organizers considered stopping the sale of alcohol at the circuit on Sunday but concluded that this would have little effect as they could not prevent the consumption of alcohol at nearby campsites or fans bringing their own alcohol to the track.
Hamilton had called on F1 to act rather than just make statements and it is believed the sport is now considering how to tackle abuse and encourage respect from fans for each other and for the drivers, in this which at some races is an increasingly tribal atmosphere.
Leclerc’s win closed the gap to Verstappen in the title fight. Leclerc is now second and 38 points behind the Dutchman with 11 races to go. The next round is two weeks away when the French Grand Prix takes place at Paul Ricard.
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