Formula One is aimed at pleasing its fans with high-speed racing among teams, where a combination of machine and man is the key. However, the motorsport has progressed greatly over the decades, with the focus shifting to other crucial issues. F1 protects drivers’ rights, promotes diversity, and is now working to reduce its effects on the environment. While the sport has seen a steep rise in the number of fans, there has also been an unfortunate increase in abuse towards drivers.
Recently, Mercedes boss Toto Wolff spoke about the abuse the drivers receive on a regular basis from the fans as they travel through different parts of the world. The team principal insisted that Formula 1 needs to take matters into its hands and educate the emotionally engaged fans to reduce the amount of abuse.
Last weekend, Max Verstappen was booed by the British crowd during his post-qualification interview at Silverstone. Just over a year ago, Verstappen and Lewis Hamilton made contact during the opening lap of the British GP, resulting in the Dutchman crashing into the barriers at 180mph. Moreover, Hamilton was also booed by the Hungarian crowd in 2021. His teammate George Russell talked about receiving a similar kind of abuse during the Canadian Grand Prix in May. Other drivers who have received abuse in recent times are Lando Norris, Zhou Guanyu, and Nicolas Latifi.
McLaren’s Norris had to defend his girlfriend and received death threats. Alfa Romeo’s Zhou Guanyu also shared that he was racially abused after signing his first F1 contract. Meanwhile, Williams’ Nicolas Latifi was threatened online following a crash in Abu Dhabi last year. His crash triggered a safety car that cost Lewis Hamilton his eighth championship.
Toto Wolff Calls For a Reform Against Abuse
Mercedes’s team principal was asked how Formula 1 could deal with the increasing abuse of drivers. Wolff gave a positive perspective, insisting that fans are very emotional about drivers and characters. He further stated F1 aims to create emotions among fans rather than leaving them numb and disengaged. Toto continued, “We want them emotionally engaged so that is the upside.”
Toto Wolff also pointed out that booing takes the fans a bit further to abuse. He suggested that F1 needs to tell the people to imagine themselves in the drivers’ shoes. Moreover, the Mercedes boss added that F1 is an emotional sport that often leads to controversies because a fan may like one driver over the other. He concluded, “That is good, but there is a certain line which you shouldn’t overstep.”