Many female fans reported being sexually harassed and assaulted at the Austrian Grand Prix this past weekend. A female fan of Sir Lewis Hamilton had her dress lifted up by a few drunk men and was told she didn’t deserve respect as a Hamilton fan. Twitter user @formulena mentioned her experience of being made uncomfortable on the shuttle to and from the track, and the amount of catcalling and inappropriate touching she witnessed.
Incidents like these are not isolated to the Red Bull Ring. An anonymous fan told ATRL about her experience being harassed at the 2022 Silverstone GP. She was waiting in the fan zone by herself while her friend was off throwing their trash away when she noticed a group of drunk Danish men acting inappropriately. They kept using explicit language, and the families around them had to repeatedly ask for them to stop.
“Two of them noticed me standing alone and came over asking who I was, why I was there, and saying that I was just a Drive to Survive fan,” the 25-year-old American said. They came very close to her, one pushing himself into her from the front and another coming in from the side.
She said, “I felt so stupid. I’ve trained in this, I worked at a rape crisis center in college, and I knew all the signs. I was telling them to stop, but it wasn’t working, and a lot of people around me were just watching instead of doing anything.” Her experience echoes that of many female fans who have said they have felt unsafe and targeted at Grand Prix events.
After reports came out over the weekend of the behavior of fans, F1 released a statement on social media. “We have been made aware of reports that some fans have been subject to completely unacceptable comments by others at the Austrian Grand Prix,” the organization wrote on Twitter. “We take these matters very seriously, have raised them with the promoter and event security, and will be speaking to those who reported the incidents. This kind of behaviour is unacceptable and will not be tolerated.”
While many praised F1 for coming out with a statement, other fans believed it was not enough. @formulena responded to the tweet with, “DO something for once!!! theres gotta be way more police and security, better organizing and kick out those who are misbehaving and so drunk they can barely think, the things i‘ve heard and seen here the past days are insane.”
A fan named Melanie created a thread on Twitter with around 20 different people’s experiences of being abused due to race, gender, sexuality, or team affiliation. At the start of the thread, she calls out F1, the FIA, and FIA president Mohammed Ben Sulayem asking them what women should do to protect themselves.
Many drivers shared their opinions on the issue after the race on Sunday, including Red Bull driver Max Verstappen who shared in the post-race press conference the idea of improving security and limiting alcohol consumption at the event.
“Sometimes when you drink alcohol, you do stupid things, and I’m not saying it’s an excuse, but these things can be regulated,” said the Dutch driver. The anonymous victim ATRL spoke to echoed his statements saying that she recalls there were more bars at Silverstone than places to find food, and many people were “completely wasted.”
Sebastian Vettel condemned the actions of rowdy fans, saying, “Whoever these people are, they should be ashamed of themselves, and they should be banned from racing events for their lives. I think 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. We race as one, so the fans are part of that.”
Female fans are sharing on social media that they are now scared to go to Grand Prix events, especially alone. The American ATRL spoke to said that she isn’t going to let her experience stop her from going to a race; however, she will never be alone at a race again, and it is highly unlikely that she will ever do general admission or sit in a grandstand.
When asked what she thinks F1 could do to improve the experience for female fans, she said, “I don’t know if promoters can fix institutional sexism, but they need to promote having respect for people who are different from you. This is a global, diverse sport, and we have fans of all different sizes, shapes, and colors that should feel welcome at these events.”
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