RACING

Verstappen condemns ‘shocking’ harassment of F1 fans at Austrian GP

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Ahead of Sunday’s race at the Red Bull Ring, messages were posted by fans on social media alleging sexual harassment, racism and homophobia from others attending the grand prix.

This led to F1 issuing a statement confirming it would act on the matter and speaking to the event promoter, calling such behavior “unacceptable”, as well as tightening pre-race security from sunday.

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Mercedes driver Lewis Hamilton called the abuse “disgusting”, having previously called out the cheers he received when he crashed out of qualifying on Friday.

Over 50,000 Dutch fans reportedly came to the Red Bull Ring this weekend to cheer on Verstappen, who has won four times at the track.

Verstappen decided to condemn the behavior which was reported when asked about it at Sunday’s post-race press conference.

“Of course it’s not good,” Verstappen said. “These things shouldn’t happen. I’ve read a few shocking things, so it’s clearly not OK.

“I shouldn’t even need to say it, I think it should be a general understanding that these things shouldn’t happen.

“A normal human being should think like that and behave like that.”

Max Verstappen, Red Bull Racing

Photo by: Mark Sutton / Motorsport Images

Verstappen felt there could be an improvement in the level of security and supervisors to help abused fans. He also suggested a limit on the amount of alcohol sold to fans, but stressed that was “no excuse”.

“Sometimes when you drink alcohol you do stupid things, and I’m not saying that’s an excuse, but those things can be regulated,” Verstappen said.

“There might be a certain amount of alcohol before you say ‘it’s time to go to bed and wake up the next morning and be sober’. If you start to get really mad, you can do all kinds of stupid things.

A number of abused fans were found by F1 to discuss the matter and were brought into the paddock for the chance to meet their heroes after the race.

Mercedes was contacted by a woman who had her dress lifted by a group of drunken fans who said she didn’t deserve respect because she was a Hamilton fan. Mercedes staff managed to track her down and bring her to the team’s garage for the final stages of the race.

“We found out it happened, and it just didn’t,” Wolff said, before calling for action against those responsible for the abuse.

“If you abuse it, in any way, in a sexist, racist, homophobic way, you’re just plain stupid, and no amount of alcohol can excuse that,” Wolff said.

“Let sport polarize and trigger emotions, we want that. But again, we should condemn and [say] keep those few idiots away from us.

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Wolff felt that F1 should “target these guys and select them, and that’s also what I guess Formula 1 said and we said, you have to report to security if you can.”

“And whoever reads my sentence, stay away,” he added. “We don’t want you. If you’re in this group, fuck you.

Mercedes driver Hamilton called the reports of abuse “a bit shocking” and stressed the need for F1 to “keep doing more” to tackle such behavior.

“It just underscores that it’s still a problem everywhere, and it comes down to education and ignorance,” Hamilton said.

“So we all have to work with our platforms to spread that positive word, with all of our platforms to all of those people watching. People should come here and feel safe, should feel included, and should be able to follow whoever you want to follow.

“It doesn’t matter your gender or your sexuality, the color of your skin. It should just be everyone here having a good time.

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