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Sexual Assault at the Austrian Grand Prix

Several female fans reported sexual harassment at the Austrian Grand Prix. They were whistled at and verbally abused, sometimes having their photographs taken without their consent.

Lewis Hamilton has demanded that Formula 1 take action against those who abuse their fellow fans. Sadly, this kind of abuse isn’t new in F1. It has been happening for years.

Sex Culture in F1

F1 is no stranger to criticism from the outside world but this latest rash of homophobic, racist and sexual harassment at races has put a particular unsavory slant on the sport. A campaign has been launched to combat the abuse with extra security on hand and SOS phones available at some events.

While F1 is getting more women to attend races the audiences are still overwhelmingly male and the sport needs to be realistic about how much this will help. Female fans should not have to feel afraid of going to a race weekend.

The Haas team has recently been hit with a scandal involving their driver Nikita Mazepin. While he is yet to be banned from racing, it’s clear that his behaviour will not be tolerated. He physically attacked a fellow driver in practice and has made homophobic comments against Williams driver George Russell. He’s also supported the racial abuse of Yuki Tsunoda. This is just the tip of the iceberg, and it’s clear that F1 needs to take serious action.

Grid Girls

Amid a #MeToo moment that should have seen sexism, harassment and exploitation finally brought to light, Formula One has been caught up in a storm of controversy over the decision to remove grid girls. Its owner, Liberty Media, claims the move is because the practice does not resonate with “brand values or contemporary social norms.”

In pictures taken during Lewis Hamilton’s victory celebrations at the Chinese Grand Prix, a grid girl was forced to stand next to him while he sprayed champagne over her face. She appeared to be deeply uncomfortable, but remained in position.

Objectification of women has been linked to low self-esteem and negative body image among young people, but this is not a case of “harmless fun.” F1 may be moving on, and other motorsports such as the Professional Darts Corporation have stopped using grid girls and walk-on girls before matches, but it’s important to remember that this was only possible because the public spoke up against the practice.

Homosexuality

Over the course of a weekend at the Red Bull Ring, fans began to share stories of sexist, racist, and homophobic abuse from other fans at the track. It’s a phenomenon that has long plagued motorsport, but the fact that it happened at Austria is truly disheartening.

The Mercedes team issued a statement condemning the abuse and even welcomed one victim into their garage during Sunday’s race. Mercedes boss Toto Wolff said that “normal people don’t behave like this” and added that alcohol consumption is “no excuse”.

The hashtag #DriveItOut was created, and drivers and other supporters alike stepped up to speak out against the behavior. But we have a lot of work to do to change the culture of this sport and make it more inclusive for all fans. Women, members of the LGBTQ+ community, and people of color are still largely treated as outliers in motorsport, and that’s an issue we need to tackle head on.

Sexual Harassment

Following reports of homophobic, sexist and sexual abuse during the Austrian Grand Prix last month, there was an outcry from many in the sport. Drivers condemned the behaviour and Mercedes team boss Toto Wolff even welcomed a victim into his garage for the weekend.

The sport is now working hard to make sure such incidents do not happen again, with extra security being added to many races and a new campaign called ‘Drive it Out’ encouraging fans to report abusive spectators on social media and at the circuit. A petition to highlight the issues is also circulating which has already reached over 4,500 signatures as of writing.

But despite the quick and universal response from the drivers, F1 still has a long way to go in order to properly tackle this issue. It is time to change the culture within the sport and show that those who do not accept that it is a sport for all should not be welcome in it.

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