Over the weekend in Austria the top drivers in Formula 1 convened in Austria for the Austrian Grand Prix. One of those drivers was living legend Lewis Hamilton, the most recognizable name in the sport. Hamilton who trails Belgian-Dutch star Max Versteppen by 38 points in the standings, was greeted to a chorus with of boos from the 60,000 fans there.
The crowd’s rude behavior didn’t stop with Hamilton. Per The Guardian, some female fans dealt with sexist catcalling, homophobic abuse, and inappropriate touching. As well as the “use of the n-word.”
One female fan of Hamilton stated that, “Five Dutch Max fans lifted my dress and when I confronted them, they said no Hamilton fan deserves any respect at all.”
Hamiton’s post-race remarks via Instagram were obviously filled with outrage.
“I arrived with a really positive mindset this morning, and then I heard of some of the things that had been said. It was a shock, and I was really sad. Someone sitting in crowd supporting someone and receiving abuse. It’s crazy to think we are still experiencing those things in 2022, we have to do more. It highlights an issue all over and it comes down to education and ignorance. People should come here and feel included and follow whoever it is you want to follow. It should not matter about your gender, your sexuality, or the color of your skin.”
Is Hamilton Seeing Fallout From His We Race As One Initiative?
Since the “Black Lives Matter,” movement Hamilton has been one of its strongest advocates. Hamilton has even been told by some critics to “shut up and race,” sort of like what a certain Fox News correspondent told LeBron James and NBA players amidst racial discourse in the country. The seven-time champion has also been instrumental in starting the “We Race As One” initiative, which is designed to bring diversity and inclusion into the sport. The initiative hasn’t really changed the outlook on the sport and Hamilton hasn’t been quiet about the lack of action.
“We race as one was all well and good, but it was just words, it didn’t do anything. There was no funding toward anything, there was no program to actually create change and spark conversation. We need to utilize our platforms. We have to step up and action some of the things we are saying. Saying it is ‘unacceptable’ is not acceptable.”
Hamilton’s push for inclusion seems to have fallen on deaf ears, and unless they ramp up security in future races, his fans could continue to face blowback based on association. Formula 1 seems to be comfortable with things being status quo, but that’s not what Hamilton is pushing for. Based on the reaction his fans received in Austria, this may just be the beginning.
Did Verstappen Condemn Fans In Austria?
Hamilton’s archrival Max Verstappen, whom the bulk of the fans were there supporting spoke on the unacceptable behavior. MV said alcohol and its intake could’ve been part of the problem.
“Also don’t forget — and this is not an excuse — but they watch races and then go back and party and have fun, drink alcohol. Sometimes you drink alcohol, you can do stupid things — I don’t say this as an excuse — but these things can be regulated.
“There is a certain amount of alcohol, maybe, before it’s time to go to bed, wake up the next morning and be sober because if you start to go really crazy, you can do stupid things.”
Verstappen wasn’t done as he then talked about all the things that happened, and how unacceptable they are.
“These things shouldn’t happen. I read a few shocking things that are clearly not OK. I should not even need to say this, it should be a general understanding that these things shouldn’t happen.”
While the alcohol statement can be used as somewhat of the problem, that’s not an excuse for the type of lewd and lascivious behavior fans were adhered to. Fans pay their money to watch a great race, not to be harassed by fans who don’t like the driver they’re rooting for.
It’s up to Formula 1 to figure out how to control the crowd better to protect fans from this type of abuse. Just putting out a statement isn’t enough.