As his sport’s biggest name, Lewis Hamilton is the face of Formula One racing. As its only Black star, he’s often the loudest voice on social issues. However, the reports from Sunday’s Austrian Grand Prix go well beyond normal fan behavior.
According to The Guardian, several fans were harassed and attacked with racist, homophobic and sexist slurs. There were also multiple reports on social media of female fans being physically attacked by aggressively misogynistic men in the stands. Apparently, things got particularly out of hand in the area where current points leader Max Verstappen’s supporters were sitting. One fan, whose account was posted on Twitter said, “five Dutch Max fans lifted up my dress and when I confronted them they said that no Hamilton fan deserves any respect at all.” The Mercedes-Benz team, who Hamilton drives for, brought her to their garage to keep her safe.
There were also reports of homophobic slurs and the N-word being used against fans. The seven-time champion commented on the attacks after the race.
“I arrived with a really positive mindset this morning and then I heard of some of the things that had been said. It was a shock and I was really sad,” Hamilton said. “Someone sitting in a crowd supporting someone and receiving abuse. It’s crazy to think we are still experiencing those things in 2022, we have to do more. It highlights it’s an issue all over and it comes down to education and ignorance. People should come here and feel included and follow whoever it is you want to follow. It should not matter about your gender, your sexuality, the color of your skin.”
Unfortunately, for Hamilton he has to condemn these sorts of attacks on an almost weekly basis. As a successful Black athlete in an extremely white, European sport, he is constantly dealing with racist fans and peers. Considering how much of this crap he’s constantly absorbing, it makes his unparalleled success even more impressive.
F1 released a generic statement on the situation that read, “This kind of behavior is unacceptable and will not be tolerated and all fans should be treated with respect.”
Well that will certainly show anyone using the N-word or assaulting women at their events. Hey Formula One, if you’re planning a big expansion into the U.S., perhaps you could show a little more concern for your fans, especially the ones from marginalized communities. Simply having a famous Black driver is not enough.