Toto Wolff has called the fans accused of harassment at the Austrian Grand Prix as “brainless”, while Sebastian Vettel called for them to be banned for life after Formula One was forced to issue a statement condemning abuse among the crowds as unacceptable.
The race at the Red Bull Ring, won by Ferrari’s Charles Leclerc from Red Bull’s Max Verstappen, was marred by a series of accusations of sexist catcalling, inappropriate touching of female fans and homophobic and racist abuse. There were 60,000 Dutch fans in attendance to support Verstappen and many of the reports referenced the stands where they were gathered.
Verstappen condemned the behaviour as did Lewis Hamilton and Leclerc. Mercedes invited one woman who had been abused by what she claimed to have been “five Dutch Max fans” to their garage on race day to ensure her safety.
Wolffwas insistent that the people responsible were giving the vast majority of supporters a bad name.
“It’s just people being stupid,” the Mercedes team principal said. “I have no other explanation for people abusing in whatever way, sexist, homophobic or racist – you are just simply brainless. No alcohol can excuse that.
“The sport polarises and triggers emotions, we want that. But again, we shouldn’t condemn all of them but put these few idiots out. We mustn’t come across as though we are condemning a group of fans, because we are not. There are a few amoebas – people with one cell – but let’s not make it a general thing.”
Vettel’s Aston Martin team also invited two fans, who had reported homophobic abuse, to their hospitality on Sunday for the race and the four-time champion believed F1 should act decisively to prevent further instances of harassment.
“Horrible isn’t it?” he said. “It is good that this stuff comes out, that’s the start, but it is horrible. Whoever these people are they should be ashamed of themselves and they should be banned from racing events for their lives. There should be zero tolerance.
“If people have a good time and drink too much that’s OK, but it doesn’t justify or excuse wrong behaviour.”
Verstappen had cited the alcohol consumption among some fans as playing a potential role, although he did not accept it was an excuse. It is understood the race promoters considered stopping the sale of alcohol at the circuit on Sunday but concluded that it would have little effect as they could not prevent the drinking in the nearby campsites or fans bringing their own alcohol to the track.
Hamilton had called on F1 to take action rather than just make statements and it is believed the sport is considering how to address abuse and encourage respect among fans toward one another and to drivers, in what at certain races is an increasingly tribal atmosphere.
Leclerc’s win has closed the gap to Verstappen in the title fight. With his win Leclerc is second and 38 points behind the Dutchman with 11 races remaining. The next round is in two weeks when the French Grand Prix takes place at Paul Ricard.