F1 races ‘soft target’ for protests

NORTHAMPTON, ENGLAND - JULY 17: Max Verstappen of the Netherlands driving the (33) Red Bull Racing RB16B Honda during the Sprint for the F1 Grand Prix of Great Britain at Silverstone on July 17, 2021 in Northampton, England. (Photo by Michael Regan/Getty Images)

If you were a race track owner or race promoter, how would you ensure that 150,000 people had a safe and enjoyable race day? How would you ensure the participants and team personnel experienced safe and effective accommodations during a race day.

This will be horribly over simplified but to make a point, perhaps 80% of a race day has been accounted for with people-moving, safety fencing, seating (assigned and GA), security protocols for fan and participant access, hospitality services, food services and more.

If you’ve accounted for the bulk of a race day, perhaps 20% of the race day is unaccounted for and you are relying on a level of civility, common sense and good will among all who attend—fan, employee, participant and guest.

You see, it’s in the margins where things get odd. It’s that 20% that can catch you off guard because you’ve left room in the margins for people to be adults about what they are doing. Unfortunately you’ve counted on people’s better nature and unfortunately, these days, that’s in short supply.

Stuart Pringle, Silverstone Managing Director, says that F1 races are possibly soft targets for activists this year. With last year’s disruption by six members of an environmental group, The Grand National delayed by protestors and recently the World Snooker Championship, you can see where Stuart might have a point as Matt Kew quotes him over at Autosport:

“Frankly, since ’87 and people hopping over the fence to embrace Nige, we’ve been pretty on that.

“We’ve done a massive internal review post-last year. We’re working closely with the police again.”

“I don’t in any way take this risk lightly. I’d be surprised if there wasn’t some degree of correlation between the protest at Silverstone and people who think it would be a good idea to go and have a crack at Aintree [Grand National] and get their own message in there.

“We know that people have tried to cable tie themselves to goals in football games [Everton versus Newcastle Premier League fixture in March 2022].

“It’s people knowing there’s lots of eyeballs on sports. Where else can you do it?

“Sports venues as a whole are, relatively speaking, softish targets with quite a high reward for the risk that the individuals are taking on. It’s just something we have to deal with as sports promoters.

“But we will work hard to make sure that people’s fun is not spoilt again this year.
“They’re only doing it because there’s a hundred million people watching around the world.”

As annoying and disruptive as these protests are, F1 races are a different situation—people could get killed! When I say people, I not only mean the protestors but also the drivers or fans. It’s one thing to rush the track at the end of a race when the track is technically still a “hot track” like Australia a couple weeks ago. It’s another to run on to a track during a race at speed.

Last year, the six culprits at the British Grand Prix at Silverstone, regardless of having miserable timing, were met with the following charges—three suspended prison sentences and the others were assigned to do community service work. Color me reactionary but that’s hardly a deterrent to seeing another attempt at this nonsense in the future.

I’ve often felt that if you can’t convince people of your cause through cogent, solid messaging and efforts within the public realm and governance, then having tantrums and disrupting civil life is sophomoric at best.

I recall a protest at the Belgian Grand Prix in which people were suspended from the to awning of a grand stand by ropes hanging over fans in their seats. People could have been seriously injured or hurt by this lunatic antic.

I’ve very little time or interest in any message when the messengers put lives at risk including drivers or fans and until the legal system starts taking the threat seriously and assigning more punitive action than just community service, they will continue to do these sorts of infantile stunts.

A protestor may feel that his/her cause is worth putting their life at risk but when they put other lives at risk, that is a completely different ballgame and one that needs serious punishment.

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The Captain

Eh, as a fellow American I don’t really think we have any business telling a different country/culture that has a much much lower crime and recidivism rates than we do, how they should do justice.


Ah, Todd, you write: “I’ve often felt that if you can’t convince people of your cause through cogent, solid messaging and efforts within the public realm and governance, then having tantrums and disrupting civil life is sophomoric at best.” well, I wonder what you think of the Civil Rights marches, the Suffragettes… and on and on…

Xean Drury

Reminds me of Green Peace. Back in the 80’s, they were the nut balls spiking trees and ramming fishing boats. In the 90’s, they made a transition from freak tactics to being more diplomatic. From 2000’s onward, they actually get a seat at the table when environment is concerned. Now they’re making real change, even if it’s never at the pace they want, but they are. PETA hasn’t figured that out yet…. ~X8