Formula 1 | “Totally stupid”: protest action causes a stir

After the horror crash at the start of Guanyu Zhou and the subsequent spectacular race at the Great Britain Grand Prix, the protest actions of some climate activists during the red flag at the start of the race almost receded into the background.

A total of seven people were arrested after the Just Stop Oil protest, despite Northamptonshire Police offering a peaceful protest alternative. The protesters posed as marshals and stormed the track onto the Hangar Straight during the first lap.

Onboard footage from the first lap appears to show the protesters entered the track at the base of the bridge on the “Hangar Straight” and jumped the barrier on the first lap as leader Max Verstappen passed.

“I thought they were marshals because they were dressed in orange,” says Charles Leclerc. “Then I saw that there was something written that I couldn’t read because we were going too fast.”

Domenicali is bursting at the seams

However, the race was stopped at the same time due to Guanyu Zhou’s serious rollover with the red flag. At least five people then sat down on the asphalt before the marshals began to clear the demonstrators. The climate activist group “Just Stop Oil” soon blamed it.

Hard to imagine what would have happened if the race had continued as normal and the drivers had driven towards the seated demonstrators. Accordingly, Formula 1 CEO Stefano Domenicali is completely beside himself after the protest.

“It’s completely irresponsible. People are welcome to say something with their voice, but storming onto the track is totally stupid. You’re putting yourself and the drivers at risk, it’s just not acceptable. There’s freedom to speak your mind, but that was really complete madness,” says the Italian harshly.

Vettel shows understanding for “fears and fears”

Sebastian Vettel, who has recently become more and more the mouthpiece for more climate-friendliness in Formula 1, sympathizes with the fears of the Protestants, but also classifies the action as dangerous.

“Everyone can have their own opinion on this. I think these people aren’t acting out of frustration, they’re desperate, and I can understand their fears and concerns very well. I think anyone who understands the scale of the problem that’s happening can understand that rolls towards us.”

“On the other hand, I also see the other side. There are marshals who try to stop people from doing things like that. You endanger the people involved in the race weekend, like drivers and marshals.”

“So there are two sides. I think the message was very clear and as I said, I fully understand their fears and concerns,” explains the Aston Martin driver.

McLaren driver Lando Norris classifies the incident as “disturbing”. “If you really have to be that dumb to go to a circuit with Formula 1 cars, it’s a scary thing.”

“At the same time they are putting us at risk of being involved in something we never want to be involved in. I’m sure the circuit did everything they could to prevent that.”

Glock: “God knows what could have happened then”

The “Sky” experts Timo Glock, Jenson Button and Damon Hill have no understanding for the protest action. “If you think about it, luckily the red flag was up at the time,” says Glock. “If the race had gone normally, God knows what could have happened.”

“Everyone can protest as they want and that’s fine, but you can’t do things like that or put others in danger. It could have ended badly today, so we have to be happy that it turned out so well and that it was relatively got under control quickly off the track.”

“It’s the worst thing you can ever do,” says Button. “You can’t just come out on the track and put everyone in danger.” Hill continues and questions the sense of such an action: “It’s just completely irresponsible.”

“If you have a message to convey, you have to do it in a way that gets people listening to the message. And to do something that might hurt someone or ruin someone else’s day completely, what’s the point be good?”

Police: “It’s incredibly disappointing”

Northamptonshire Police have now issued a statement saying seven people have been arrested over their “incredibly dangerous decision”.

The event’s commander, Chief Inspector Tom Thompson, said: “I am genuinely disappointed that this group of people ignored our pre-race day warnings and made the incredibly dangerous decision to enter the track.”

“We offered to host a peaceful event at the circuit, but they chose instead to endanger the lives of drivers, marshals and volunteers. It’s incredibly disappointing that anyone would choose to do something like this.”

“All seven are currently in custody”

The demonstration came after Northamptonshire Police, who conceded protests are “everyone’s human right”, received “credible information” on Friday that some were planning to halt the race. However, all involved were urged not to take undue risk and not to “endanger lives”.

Adds Thompson, “Fortunately we had plans for such an event and the group was quickly removed by our officers and arrested. All seven are currently in custody pending identification.”

“Finally, I would like to thank all officers and staff and our partners who have worked tirelessly on this police operation. In general we have a very low crime rate, today’s incident was handled effectively and efficiently and I could not have asked for more.”

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