Formula 1 under pressure after Spielberg’s sexual assault DW

“No, that doesn’t surprise us.” Motorsport fan Helena Hicks’ words are a devastating message to Formula 1. After all, the Briton spoke after the Austrian Grand Prix last weekend. In the aftermath, there is hardly any talk of Ferrari driver Charles Leclerc’s victory, but about what happened on the sidelines of the Grand Prix according to the descriptions of those affected: sexist appearances, and aggressive touching of fans by male visitors. On race, homosexuality and racial abuse. “That’s one of the downsides to motorsport,” Hicks says. “Things have to change, and the more people talk about it, the more chance we have of that happening.”

In 2018, journalist Hicks founded the online platform “Women in motorsport“.She and her fellow activists are committed to greater participation by women in motorsport, which is more traditionally the macho field. After the race in Spielberg, the site received many reports from fans.” One woman said that her skirt had been pulled off. “It’s absolutely horrible,” Hicks says. [sexuell anzügliches Rufen, Reden, Pfeifen oder Gestikulieren – Anm. d. Red.] and racial hostilities. Fans who were wearing the colors of the rainbow were bullied.”

What happened in the race in Austria, they had previously experienced in another Formula 1 race, those affected reported this to “females in motorsport”. This also coincides with her own experience, Hicks says: “I was in Austria in 2019 and was ridiculed and insulted by a large group of Dutch fans. Alcohol was also poured over my head.” In the past, fans would have publicly reported such accidents in motorsports. “They weren’t always believed. I think that’s a fundamental problem.” DW has reached out to those affected by the Spielberg attacks. None of them wanted to talk publicly about the experiments.

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the phrase “graceful”

In a first statement, Formula 1 condemned the abusive behavior of fans at the race in Austria as “unacceptable”. This should not be tolerated. “All fans should be treated with respect.” Helena Hicks believes this is nothing more than an inaccurate interpretation: “For a long time, Formula 1 hesitated to take a stand on this issue. But now that Formula 1 has finally acknowledged it, it’s time for changes. People who testify must be to the abuse of motorsports. The duty to report them, rather than remove them under the rug.” Until now, Hicks said, fans who have fallen victim to such incidents did not know who to turn to. “There have also been cases where guards have been involved, so it’s tough. It’s up to Formula 1 to work with circuit operators and the Grand Prix organizers on this issue.”

I asked DW Formula 1 what regulatory changes it plans to make in response to the Spielberg incident. “We have [nach den ersten Berichten während des Rennens – Anm. d. Red.] Ensure that the hosts [Rennkommissare] Security forces are more visible and available. And we put up banners in the stands and in the fan zones with messages calling for everyone’s respect.”

Vettel calls for a lifetime ban

Formula 1 drivers unanimously condemned Spielberg’s attacks. Mercedes driver Lewis Hamilton said he was “disgusted and disappointed”. “People should come here and feel safe and have a good time. It doesn’t matter what your gender or what your gender is or what color your skin is.” Events at the Austrian Grand Prix showed that the problem is still omnipresent in Formula 1, according to the seven-time world champion from Great Britain. “We all have to work together.”

Sebastian Vettel, the four-times champion, has called for zero tolerance for perpetrators. “Whoever these people are, they should be ashamed and banned from racing for life,” said the Aston Martin driver from Germany. Defending champion Max Verstappen called for better safety precautions and suggested, among other things, limiting alcohol consumption during races. “Things like this should never happen anywhere,” the Dutch Red Bull driver told De Telegraaf.

Mercedes team boss Toto Wolff called for relentless intervention: “If you act in any way in a sexist, racist or homophobic manner, you are brainless, and no alcohol can justify that.” Helena Hicks agrees that Formula 1 should position itself clearly. “White men dominated the sport from the start,” says the founder of Female in Motorsports. “The things they accepted as normal were clearly unacceptable.” Now they finally opened their eyes. Formula 1 is becoming more inclusive. But it still has a long way to go.

This article is adapted from the English language.

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