RACING

Another fan’s bullying experience last weekend

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Formula 1 drivers and teams united in condemning the sexual harassment suffered by some female fans who attended last weekend’s round at the Red Bull Ring, in addition to reports of homophobic slurs and racist slurs.

A fan reported on social media that a group of men lifted her skirt, telling her she didn’t deserve respect because she was a Lewis Hamilton fan. The stories of other women were widely reported over the weekend.

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RaceFans spoke to another fan ahead of Sunday’s race, who shared his experience. “The first things started on Saturday night when we were waving to drivers going home in their cars,” she told us.

“There was Max drunk [Verstappen] fans are screaming and asking weird questions like “What are you doing?” and just generally rude and insulting security, who called the police because they were acting really weird.

“After that I took the shuttle to Knittelfeld and there was a really drunk guy with us, he was just talking gibberish.

“He kept calling me Yuki Tsunoda because I’m short and I was wearing AlphaTauri products, which already made me a little uncomfortable.

“He sat right across from us and he grabbed me directly behind my face, in my ear because he wanted me to listen to him. I told him to stop and he just said, ‘ What are you already afraid of?’ and I started crying.

“He was also asking really inappropriate things like what am I going to do with my boyfriend tonight. I just said to him: ‘Nothing, I’m tired’ and he replied: ‘No, you have to give him what you want’.

“I completely lost my mind and burst into tears.”

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Reports from other women describing the harassment and abuse they had suffered, and their concerns for their safety, went viral on social media. Many senior members of F1 were obviously appalled at what had happened. The likes of Hamilton and Sebastian Vettel spoke out forcefully, but were by no means the only ones to do so.

But the most worrying thing is that this is not a new phenomenon. These kinds of stories, of women being attacked or called out in crowds, have emerged at sporting events for years. A “pack mentality” exists among some predominantly male fan groups. Hearing these stories, it’s no surprise that some women were too scared to get back on the track.

Sexist comments are ‘simply out of date’ – Wolff

To their credit, Formula 1 was quick to act. The issue was raised with the promoter after details began to emerge on Saturday, and more stewards and security were deployed to the crowd. On Sunday, screens around the track displayed messages reminding spectators to be respectful of one another.

Formula 1 has seen a big increase in the number of women racing in recent years. An official survey conducted by the series last year showed that female participation had doubled over the past four seasons. Interestingly, the highest female response rates to the survey, around one in four, were in the Middle East and Africa.

But if female faces are increasingly common in crowds, why do some continue to treat them with such disrespect?

Mercedes team principal Toto Wolff was one of the first to be asked about it by RaceFans and other media after the checkered flag fell in Austria. His message was clear, that such behavior can no longer be called a “joke”.

“I think the way it evolved over time, it was kind of understood that you have to accept a little pain if someone made a sexist comment or something that was [once] just described as a joke. But today, this is no longer the case.

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“People really feel hurt or discriminated against and that’s why we all need to be more aware.

“We grew up with these jokes. How many pictures do I still get – ‘hehe, haha’ – but I have the perfect teacher at home,” he said, referring to Susie Wolff, his wife and CEO of the team. of Formula E Venturi.

Lewis Hamilton, Mercedes, Red Bull Ring, 2022
“It’s crazy that we’re still going through these things in 2022” – Hamilton

“Susie sees this and says it was considered funny 10 years ago because nobody cared, but I can tell you it’s borderline, or for me it’s too much.

“For us guys who had this, it was always seen as a joke. We just need a little change of heart because girls and women don’t want that.

Its driver Hamilton, who is an active campaigner for diversity and stamping out racism, said the news showed shortcomings in the “We Race as One” initiative, which F1 had promoted extensively over the previous two seasons.

“Just to know that someone sitting in a crowd supporting someone else is being abused, it’s crazy to think we’re still going through those things in 2022,” Hamilton said.

“It goes back to some of the messages that we talked about in terms of things that we also need to do here in the sport, which is more committed to diversity and inclusion within our industry.

“Because it then reflects the direction we’re going and it also often reflects what our fan base looks like. It’s time to act. ‘We Race as One'” was fine, but it was just He actually didn’t do anything, there was no funding for anything, there was no program to actually create change and start this conversation.

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“So we absolutely have to use our platforms, as I just mentioned, but we have to really step up and really start implementing some of the things that we’re saying. Saying it is not enough. This is unacceptable. It’s not enough.”

Max Verstappen, Red Bull, Red Bull Ring, 2022
“A normal human being shouldn’t behave like this” – Verstappen

World champion Max Verstappen, who has a large fan base at the Red Bull Ring, called the reports “shocking”.

“It’s clearly not right. I shouldn’t even need to say it, I think it should be a general understanding that these things shouldn’t happen. I think a normal human being should think like that and behave like that.

While words are appreciated, actions speak louder and this situation has elicited a reaction from those who can make a difference if they wish. Hamilton is an inspiring example of someone who has done just that.

The seven-time world champion, the first black man to race in F1, has put his hand in his pocket and set up a commission to identify the root causes of the lack of diversity in British motorsport, with a focus on F1 in particular. The results showed that only 1% of motorsport engineering jobs are held by people from black backgrounds and case studies of ‘outright racism’ were dismissed as ‘jokes’.

Hamilton’s efforts have helped more people understand the racism, homophobia and sexism that exist. He made it his mission to do something about it.

The events of the past weekend have refuted the assumptions of those who suggest that sexual harassment is not a problem, simply because they did not witness it. F1 must send the message that those who refuse to accept that our sport is accessible to all – regardless of gender, sexuality or race – are the only ones who are not part of it.

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