New generation of F1 fans is calling out abuse, says Vettel

Abusive attitudes have likely been around Formula One for years but new and younger fans are driving change by refusing to stay silent, four-times world champion Sebastian Vettel said on Thursday.

Sexist, racist and homophobic behaviour by spectators was reported at this month’s Austrian Grand Prix, with the sport condemning incidents in the campsites and grandstands.

Aston Martin driver Vettel suggested such behaviour, in a sport that has always been male-dominated, was less of a new phenomenon than the willingness to call it out.

“I think there has been a shift in fan base. I think we can all see the excitement for Formula One and I think we can see a younger audience on average coming to the track,” the German told reporters ahead of the French Grand Prix.

“I think the abuse has probably always been there…but maybe you are starting to see a generation coming to the track that actually stands up and complains about it and makes a noise.

“It’s great to see that people are having the courage to speak up and we are learning about these things going on. Because only by doing so we can take action.

“I don’t think it will escalate. The truth, unfortunately, is that it has been going on for a long time at all major sport events or big events.”

Formula One has seen a surge in popularity, with much of that attributed to the Netflix docu-series “Drive to Survive” that has drawn new and younger audiences.

That series has also highlighted personalities, and some have seen tribal loyalties emerging.

The rise of 24-year-old Dutch driver Max Verstappen, world champion last year after a fierce and ultimately controversial battle with Mercedes’ seven-times world champion Lewis Hamilton, has also brought change.

Hamilton, and Vettel, have been outspoken within the sport in support of LGBTQ+ issues, human rights and diversity.

“I don’t think we should just be saying this is Formula One’s problem, I think it’s all of us,” said Hamilton. “We can all do more.

“I think football has done some positive things in terms of the announcements that are made…we just need to continue to take a stand and I think the more we project the direction that we want to go, hopefully, slowly, people will navigate on that route.”

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