RACING

No matter how noble the cause, the Silverstone protest was reckless and risking lives

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Sunday’s British Grand Prix could have been a dark day for Formula 1.

In another timeline, one where Halo Resistance and its alleged taint of motor racing purity proved successful, Zhou Guanyu’s terrifying accident at Abbey could have resulted in far worse consequences. The fact that he not only emerged from the crash but did so unscathed is a testament to the remarkable progress F1 has made on safety.

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One of the odd consequences of the accident was that the resulting red flag actually played a part in preventing what could have been a very unpleasant accident, involving people who made it to the track for the first lap of the race.

Ahead of the Silverstone race weekend, Northamptonshire Police had issued a statement saying there was ‘credible intelligence’ that a protest was planned for Sunday. Efforts were made to facilitate a peaceful protest for Just Stop Oil, the climate activist group, only for the runway invasion to continue. Seven people were subsequently arrested.

It’s a miracle no one was seriously hurt. Fan footage shows protesters marching down the track near the Wellington Strait Bridge, yards from the racing line of cars, before sitting down until marshals carry them away. It’s one of the fastest points on the circuit, renowned for side-to-side action, especially on the opening lap. We saw with Kimi Raikkonen’s accident in 2014 that this is a point where cars can spin sideways and into the wall. If the cars had been at race speed, it would have been a terrifying time for drivers trying to avoid those on track, not to mention the volunteer marshals and officials tasked with pushing them away.

Just Stop Oil has undertaken a number of protests this year. The group was created only a few months ago, but quickly gained momentum thanks to actions such as sabotaging gas stations or seeing activists glue themselves to Van Gogh’s works of art.

Protesters found a way into Silverstone Circuit at the start of the race

Photo by: JEP / Motorsport Images

But it was different. It was not a way to disturb something to make a point – very valid, it must be said. It was something that put so many lives in danger and went way too far.

Just Stop Oil spokesperson James Skeet appeared on TV show Hello Brittany this morning to discuss them, and I felt that his very presence proved their success as a movement. “I’m on your program to talk about the most critical issue facing humanity, so this is a success,” he said, later warning, “If we don’t act now, we’ll all die.”

The merits of climate activism cannot and should not be ignored. The world is facing increasing challenges when it comes to ensuring we have a sustainable future – or any kind of future – and all the drivers who discussed the incident after the race in were very aware. Sebastian Vettel, a regular speaker on climate issues, noted the despair many protesters can feel when they see governments failing to act on issues that could force them to take such foolish action.

“I very much understand their fears and anxieties, which I think anyone who understands the scale of the problem heading our way can understand,” Vettel said.

“On the other hand, I see the other side. There are marshals trying to stop people from doing this stuff. You endanger people involved in the race weekend, drivers, marshals.

The series has been clear in its efforts to incorporate environmental concerns into its plan for the future, aiming for a net zero carbon footprint by 2030 and developing a fully sustainable fuel to be introduced in the years to come.

That’s exactly it: potentially endangering the lives of innocent drivers and volunteers is not the way to get your point across. It’s reckless.

“You are putting us at risk of being involved in something we would never want to be involved in,” said McLaren’s Lando Norris, who called what happened “worrying”. His teammate Daniel Ricciardo said the drivers were not informed of the police’s initial statement that a protest was planned and that the 2003 invasion of the Silverstone track by a priest quickly came to his mind. spirit.

Like Vettel, Lewis Hamilton has been a key figure speaking out on issues that go far beyond motor racing and first hailed the environmental protests at the FIA’s post-race press conference. But then he took to Instagram to urge people not to crowd the track as they raced to get their points.

Hamilton praised the environmental protests but urged people not to crowd the track to get their points across

Hamilton praised the environmental protests but urged people not to crowd the track to get their points across

Photo by: Steve Etherington / Motorsport Images

Asked on Hello Brittany of the risk of death involved in this protest, Skeet said, “I appreciate that it’s counterintuitive, but history has shown time and time again that civil resistance is the most effective way to bring about the kind of societal changes we need to see in the time we have left.

Former footballer turned pundit and crusty ambassador Gary Lineker shared a snippet of the GMB interview on Twitter, saying “history will look very favorably on these people” given the importance of their cause , prompting a response from many in the F1 community. .

Sky F1 expert Martin Brundle said: “Please don’t encourage this reckless behaviour. They would have been cut into 100 pieces and the fans, marshals and drivers were at complete risk of injury and to die. We once had a lucky escape. I support freedom of speech and opinion 100%, but do it responsibly.

It’s a view that F1 as a whole seems to agree with. The series has been clear in its efforts to incorporate environmental concerns into its plan for the future, aiming for a net zero carbon footprint by 2030 and developing a fully sustainable fuel to be introduced in the years to come. More can always be done, and each of us must do more to take the climate crisis we face more seriously. Our very existence depends on it.

But there is a way to move things forward and raise awareness. As desperate as things may seem and as frustrated as the lack of real action by those responsible may be, risking lives is not the right way to do it.

F1 targets zero carbon footprint by 2030 and develops fully sustainable fuel

F1 targets zero carbon footprint by 2030 and develops fully sustainable fuel

Photo by: Mark Sutton / Motorsport Images

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