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Formula 1 Austrian GP

Verstappen condemns "shocking" F1 fan harassment in Austrian GP

Formula 1 world champion Max Verstappen condemned the “shocking” harassment reported by spectators at the Austrian Grand Prix, while Mercedes boss Toto Wolff told abusive fans to “stay at home.”

Dutch fans fill the air with orange as Max Verstappen, Red Bull Racing RB18, 1st position, passes at the end of the Sprint race

Ahead of Sunday’s race at the Red Bull Ring, posts emerged from fans on social media reporting sexual harassment, racism and homophobia from others attending the grand prix.

It led to F1 issuing a statement confirming it would act on the matter and hold talks with the promoter of the event, calling such behaviour “unacceptable”, as well as increasing security ahead of Sunday's race.

Mercedes driver Lewis Hamilton called the abuse “disgusting”, having already called out the cheers he received when he crashed out of qualifying on Friday.

More than 50,000 Dutch fans are understood to have come to the Red Bull Ring this weekend to cheer on Verstappen, who has won four times at the track.

Verstappen moved to condemn the behaviour that had been reported when asked about the matter in Sunday’s post-race press conference.

"Of course it’s not good, “Verstappen said. “These things shouldn’t happen. I read a few shocking things, so that’s clearly not OK.

“I shouldn’t even need to say this, I think this should be a general understanding that these things shouldn’t happen.

“A normal human being should think like that and should behave like that.”

Max Verstappen, Red Bull Racing

Max Verstappen, Red Bull Racing

Photo by: Mark Sutton / Motorsport Images

Verstappen felt there could be an improvement in the amount of security and supervisors to aid fans who are subject to abuse. He also suggested a limit on how much alcohol was sold to fans, but stressed that it was “not an excuse”.

“Sometimes when you drink alcohol you do stupid things, and I’m not saying it’s an excuse, but these things can be regulated,” Verstappen said.

“There’s a certain amount of alcohol maybe, before you say, ‘it’s time to go to bed and wake up again the next morning and be sober’. If you start to go really crazy, you can do all sorts of stupid things.”

A number of the fans who were subject to abuse were found by F1 to discuss the matter, and were brought into the paddock to get a chance to meet their heroes after the race.

Mercedes was contacted by a woman who had her dress lifted up by a group of drunk fans who said she did not deserve respect because she was a Hamilton fan. Mercedes personnel managed to find her and bring her into the team garage for the closing stages of the race.

“We found out that this has happened, and that’s just not on,” Wolff said, before calling for action against the individuals responsible for abuse.

“If you abuse, in whatever way, sexist, racist, homophobic, you're just simply brainless, and no alcohol can excuse that,” Wolff said.

“That the sport polarises and triggers emotions, we want that. But again, we should condemn and [say] that these few idiots to stay away from us.”

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Wolff felt that F1 needed to “target these guys, and pick them out, and this is also what I guess Formula 1 has said and we have said, you need to report to the security if you can.”

“And whoever reads my sentence, stay away,” he added. “We don’t want you. If you’re part of that group, f***k off.”

Mercedes driver Hamilton called the reports of abuse “a bit of a shock” and stressed the need for F1 to “continue to do more” to combat such behaviour.

“It just highlights that it’s still an issue all over, and it comes down to education and ignorance,” Hamilton said.

“So we all have to work together with our platforms to spread that positive word, with all of our platforms to all of those people who are watching. People should come here and feel safe, should feel included and should be able to follow whoever it is you want to follow.

“It shouldn’t matter whatever your gender or your sexuality, the colour of your skin. It should just be everyone here to have a great time.”

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