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Fan abuse of F1 drivers must be ‘eradicated’

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The rise in popularity of F1 in recent years has been accompanied by a polarization of fan opinion in favor or against certain drivers, especially on social media.

Russell cited a real-world example of being booed by a fan for no apparent reason on the parade lap of the Canadian GP.

“I think as his profile increases, there are a lot of positive things that come with that, for sure,” he said. “But there are also disadvantages that also require a bit of readjustment. In Montreal, someone yelled my name and booed me.

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“And I’m sitting in the car at the drivers’ parade. And it’s quite strange to understand that this 35-40 year old guy is booing me when I don’t even know him. I’m just trying to keep to myself and trying to do my best at every race I attend and put on a good show and be polite and nice to everyone.

“So there are some things you have to get used to and just accept that unfortunately this is the world and the society that we live in right now. And this is another example of something that needs to be eradicated.

“What gives that guy the right to boo someone? What gives these soccer fans the right to insult the players? They are just doing their job, doing their best to have a career. And I think that’s what a lot of people don’t really appreciate in this role.”

George RussellMercedes AMG

George RussellMercedes AMG

Photo By: Steve Etherington/Motorsport Images

The GPDA director also expressed support for the anti-racism messages that have come in from various F1 stakeholders in light of the recent Nelson Piquet and Juri Vips controversies.

“I think it’s clear that we all need to do more to eradicate all the racism that exists not only in the world of motorsport, but also in society,” he said. “And I think it goes beyond this as well: social abuse that people receive online.

“I think it’s great to see so many come together and present their views. And I think we all have a duty to do more. And it’s shocking to see in today’s age that we’re still going through with this.”

Asked if he thought F1’s statement was enough, he questioned why the pre-race anti-racism knee gesture had been stopped.

“I don’t think anything is really good enough,” he said. “I haven’t seen the statement from F1 itself. So I can’t comment solely on that. But I think I’ve heard before that it’s been two years since the first race in 2020 when we all knelt in Austria.

“And I think when the decision came for us to stop, a lot of people discussed why we stop this. Because it hasn’t been like racism has been resolved and there’s still no racist abuse going around. There are a lot of things going around.

“And I think this week has been shocking to see him from two different ends of the spectrum, from someone who would clearly say he’s stuck in his own ways, from an older generation, but also from a young man. I think we will have to do more.”

When asked if the GPDA would talk about bringing back the knee gesture, he said: “I’m not quite sure what exactly we’ll talk about, but there are definitely conversations we need to have and talk to each other about using our platform for a Greater good.

“I think we’ve talked a lot about this in recent years, whether it’s about mental health, whether it’s addressing racism or social abuse, and we’re just racing drivers, we’re not politicians of any kind.

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“I think we all feel a duty to use our platform to not only help educate people, but it’s also educational on a number of these topics for all of us.

“But when it comes to racism or social abuse, I don’t think anyone needs education there. It’s shocking to see that it’s still ongoing.”

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