Two weeks ago, a spate of reports emerged from spectators on the ground at Formula 1's Austrian Grand Prix about widespread harassment directed at women, queer people and people of color. F1 was steadfast in its rebuke of the behavior, stating that was “unacceptable and will not be tolerated and all fans should be treated with respect.” In the lead up to this weekend’s French Grand Prix, it’s added another edict: we mustn’t forget to respect cardboard, too.
Yes, amid the abuse of actual humans, F1 was apparently also disturbed by the “loosening [of] billboards and other signage” in Austria, which fans then took “with them,” per Dutch paper De Telegraaf via Google Translate.
This happened after the race at the Red Bull Ring, when fans are allowed to walk the track before the podium celebrations. People also apparently jacked signage in Silverstone a week earlier; hell, the same exact thing happened at the Canadian Grand Prix I attended back in 2019, and probably every race ever. It’s not new, but F1 has had enough.
The sport will reportedly crack down on this activity during the upcoming race in Le Castellet. “There will be stricter controls that spectators comply with the rules,” De Telegraaf states. “There will be CCTV surveillance and a fan who engages in similar behavior will be prosecuted by local authorities.” I wonder if F1 intends to pull closed-camera footage to punish people who shout racial slurs at other attendees or expose women. Perhaps that’s next on the to-do list after the signs are confirmed safe.
F1 has a right to protect its property, and I’ve seen some rumblings — though nothing I could verify — that some of this signage is reused. That’s fair enough, but the timing of this news, at a moment when the series has much more serious concerns on its hands relating to fan behavior, strikes as an inability or unwillingness to read the room. Not that that’s new for F1.