Subscribe

Sign up for free

  • Get quick access to your favorite articles

  • Manage alerts on breaking news and favorite drivers

  • Make your voice heard with article commenting.

Motorsport prime

Discover premium content
Subscribe

Edition

Global
Formula 1 Mexico City GP

What Mexico's "Racepect" campaign says about F1's toxicity problem

As Formula 1's fanbase grows ever more divided, the Mexico Grand Prix organisers took matters into their own hands to reduce abusive behaviour at their event.

Fans of Sergio Perez, Red Bull Racing

The Mexico City promoters were alarmed by antisocial behaviour at sporting events around the world, fueled by the toxic polarisation of social media and society as a whole.

They launched an awareness-raising campaign called "Racepect", encouraging fans to leave the fighting to the 20 F1 drivers on the track rather than let it spill over into the grandstands or on online platforms.

The race's efforts follow in the wake of the FIA's own campaign to fight against online hate speech, with the organisers spurred into action after noticing souring interactions between fan bases of various drivers.

Tensions over the controversial 2021 title fight between Max Verstappen and Lewis Hamilton, which spilled out copiously over social media, have largely subsided but still linger online.

Since then Verstappen's fan base has also clashed with the passionate Mexican supporters of his current team-mate Sergio Perez, with several questionable comments by Red Bull advisor Helmut Marko adding fuel to the fire.

Sergio Perez, Red Bull Racing

Photo by: Red Bull Content Pool

Sergio Perez, Red Bull Racing

The vociferous response from some Mexican fans prompted Red Bull to take extra security measures in the Mexico paddock.

"We have been noticing this in the past years, not only in racing or Formula 1, but it's something that got our attention in other sports, in football, in baseball, in sports all over the world," said the race's managing director Federico Gonzalez.

"So, we decided to launch this campaign of respect, because I think it's something that this sport needs, to do something about what is happening on the grandstands and all over the world.

"The idea is to battle the bigotry in the stands. Since Max is the team-mate of Checo, I think we're taking things out of the limits.

"So, the idea is to come back and keep this sport a family-oriented sport and to keep the battle on the track and not outside the track."

F1's recent popularity boom has not only expanded but also diversified the fanbase in both a positive and negative sense. It has fuelled concerns that the hooliganism that has plagued football, predominantly in Europe and Latin America, has now also seeped into motorsports.

That antisocial behaviour is taking many forms, ranging from simple partisanship to racism and poor treatment of women.

Fans invade the ciruit after the race

Photo by: Mark Sutton / Motorsport Images

Fans invade the ciruit after the race

Gonzalez too noticed the make-up of his race's audience change since Mexico returned to the F1 calendar in 2015.

"I think we're changing the audience. This is our eighth race in here and I've been seeing changes in the fans. I think we have new commerce, maybe from some other sports," he explained.

"I think it's better to start explaining that this is a different sport. The rules are different and the battle needs to be on the race on the track."

Rodriguez treated race day as the "big test" of whether or not Mexico's awareness-raising campaign made any impact.

Following Perez's clash with Charles Leclerc on Lap 1, a fight broke out between a Perez supporter and Ferrari fans at the Foro Sol stadium section, with the offending fan swiftly being restrained and evicted from the premises.

But despite the isolated incident the first indications are that the weekend, which drew a record total of 400,638 spectators – 152,668 of which on race day – went smoother than feared.

“We are exceptionally proud of the #Racepect campaign and the influence it had on our fans, the majority of which were respectful across the weekend," Gonzalez said on Tuesday when approached for comment.

"Thanks to the support of teams, drivers and the Formula 1 community itself we were able to spread the message far and wide and the campaign really did work beyond expectation."

Red Bull team boss Horner agreed that a week on from Perez supporters reportedly booing Verstappen in Austin, the Dutchman received a positive response from the same fans who had been devastated to see Perez retire after just one lap.

fans, crowd in pit lane, with banners

Photo by: Mark Sutton / Motorsport Images

fans, crowd in pit lane, with banners

“He’s had a fantastic reception," said Red Bull team boss Horner. "I have to applaud the Mexican fans for the support and the sportsmanship they’ve shown this weekend – they’ve been brilliant.  

“You heard the cheer when he went on the podium and the support they’ve given the whole team has been outstanding.” 

Instead, it was Leclerc who received the most hostile reception from a small minority of fans in Foro Sal for his part in the Turn 1 clash, in which he had nowhere to go.

Efforts were also made to ease security concerns inside the F1 paddock after throngs of passionate fans and VIPs made it hard for drivers and personnel to move around at last year's event.

Most observers seemed in agreement that the reduction of paddock passes in Mexico had helped.

“I thought it was a lot better this year," Horner said. "There were actually a lot less people in the paddock than there were last year. Getting to the toilet was a lot easier this year!” 

It remains to be seen whether the Mexico GP's initiative will be emulated elsewhere, and to which extent the FIA's campaign will yield any results.

fans, crowd in pit lane, with banners

Photo by: Mark Sutton / Motorsport Images

fans, crowd in pit lane, with banners

One brief look at F1-related accounts on X, the platform formerly known as Twitter that has descended into a free-for-all zone following its takeover by Elon Musk, suggests that tackling online abuse will be an order of magnitude harder than addressing in-person behaviour.

All of this is taking place against the backdrop of a lame-duck F1 season flattened by Verstappen's and Red Bull's unprecedented dominance, which has taken the sting out of his rivalry with 2021 nemesis Hamilton or indeed any other drivers.

But while Verstappen and Hamilton seem to enjoy more cordial, normalised relations these days, the same can't be said of some of their most ardent fans.

The true scale of F1's toxicity problem is likely to surface when F1 gets its wish, and several drivers and teams will be sparring over the world championship until the bitter end.

Read Also:

Be part of Motorsport community

Join the conversation

Related video

Previous article How O’Sullivan FP1 run shows Williams is on right track with young drivers
Next article Wolff: No guarantee of repeat F1 Brazilian GP winning form this weekend

Top Comments

There are no comments at the moment. Would you like to write one?

Sign up for free

  • Get quick access to your favorite articles

  • Manage alerts on breaking news and favorite drivers

  • Make your voice heard with article commenting.

Motorsport prime

Discover premium content
Subscribe

Edition

Global