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Formula 1

Stricter security and SOS phones in France after F1 fan abuse

by Scott Mitchell-Malm
3 min read

Increased security and SOS assistance phone lines will be implemented at the French Grand Prix as part of an immediate reaction from Formula 1 over abusive fan behaviour in Austria.

Sexual harassment and racial abuse were among the incidents reported by fans at the Austrian GP earlier this month.

F1 said it had raised those reports with the promoter and security at the event and also wanted to speak to those who suffered targeted harassment.

More action has been taken to show how seriously F1 is taking the matter, though.

At this weekend’s French GP there are three specific measures in place as F1 has pushed promoters to take action and will assess this as an initial trial, and consider more ideas.

Security in spectator areas will be made more visible and be expected to deal with abusive fans, ejecting them if necessary.

There will be visible SOS assistance phone lines, for fans to report abuse, and these will be operated by trained security personnel.

Repeated messages will also be shown on screens around the track for fans to “respect each other” through the weekend.

“The abuse has probably always been there but I don’t think at any time it was correct,” four-time F1 world champion Sebastian Vettel said on Thursday in France.

Motor Racing Formula One World Championship French Grand Prix Preparation Day Paul Ricard, France

“Maybe you are seeing a generation coming to the track who complains about it and makes a noise and uses different platforms to complain about it.

“It is great to see people having the courage to stand up because by learning about it, we can do something about it.

“It has been going on for some time at all major sporting events.

“It is more than about time that it is changing because there is no space for those things.”

Lewis Hamilton said the abuse was representative of a wider social problem and likened it to what he said at the British GP, where he had to field questions about racial slurs from Nelson Piquet and comments made by Bernie Ecclestone defending them.

“These are voices that are not aligned with us, who have undertones of discrimination,” Hamilton said.

“We should not be amplifying those voices.

“F1 100% should continue to do more. We had the We Race As One initiative. That was just lip service.

“I know F1 is focused on doing more but we can always do more. Everyone can do more.

“It is about accountability.

“We just need to continue to take a stand, and the more we project the direction we want to go, hopefully slowly people will navigate to that route.”

Fan behaviour has come under increasing scrutiny this year for other reasons, too.

At Silverstone, home fans were criticised for booing Max Verstappen while in Austria Verstappen’s legion of fans jeered Hamilton for crashing out in qualifying.

There have also been incidents of fans stealing signage when they are allowed on track post-race for the podium ceremony.

This problem is being met with greater surveillance by F1, which will report any incidents to the local authorities in an attempt to identify and punish the perpetrators.

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