A motorsport fan club called Formula 1 Women has received at least 15 reports of harassment by fans at this past weekend’s Dutch Grand Prix, online publication NU.nl reports. Now, the club’s founder, Svenja Tillemans, wants to speak to race organizers about ways to curb abusive behaviors that have plagued F1 all season.
According to Tillemans, multiple women noted that they had been inappropriately touched, endured verbal harassment, or even had beer poured on them while spectating at the Dutch Grand Prix. Knowing that there was potential for this kind of fan behavior after this year’s Austrian Grand Prix, Dutch Grand Prix organizers at Zandvoort set up a special phone number for spectators to report harassment. However, the effort didn’t exactly work out. From the NU.nl article (translated from Dutch):
Tillemans heard stories of women who were pinched in the buttocks or had beer [poured] on them. The circuit communicated a special phone number where women could complain. “Five reports came in here, but there was almost no coverage on the track,” says Tillemans.
“I know that a number of women have gone to security guards, but they referred them to the police, who were outside. Then you get the ‘never mind’ effect and that’s a shame.”
For their part, local police say they’ve received no formal complaints of harassment — but if women had to leave the circuit during the race in order to file a complaint with police, Tillemans notes, it makes sense that no spectators chose to go that route.
Another Dutch site, NOS.nl, notes that Tillemans has heard from at least 25 women since Friday. The site spoke to women who experienced harassment at the track (again, translated from Dutch):
One of the women who were harassed in Zandvoort last weekend is 21-year-old Naomi, who does not want to be called by her last name for privacy reasons. She attended the race with her father. “I had been looking forward to it for two years,” she says. “But after last weekend’s experience, I don’t think I want to go to Formula 1 again.”
That has to do with the comments men yelled at her. “I have inflammations in my knees, so there are bandages on [them]. I heard men say: “She had a nice time on her knees this afternoon,” “So, she was busy last night,” and “Oh, you can do without those plasters.” [...]
Naomi says this happened when she was without her father, such as going to the toilet or getting food and drink. “They really picked out the moments when I was alone,” she says. “I have never felt so dirty, humiliated and inferior at an event. And unsafe. That is why we went home as soon as possible after the race.”
The phenomenon of abuse at the track isn’t new; at this year’s Austrian Grand Prix, fans were subjected to racist, sexist, and gender-based abuse.
Unfortunately, the people reporting these incidents have also been subjected to a different kind of scrutiny online: somehow, some F1 fans have interpreted these complaints as being fabricated in order to condemn Dutch fans or Max Verstappen fans — often ignoring the fact that plenty of these victims and spokespeople, including Tillemans, count themselves among those demographics.
This trackside experience is nothing new for many longtime fans who defy the conventional mental image of a motorsport fan — but the Dutch Grand Prix is yet another example of the fact that mindsets and approaches desperately need to change. A phone number to report harassment isn’t enough.