Motor racing-Vettel calls for lifetime bans for abusive F1 fans

(Reuters) – Formula One fans who aim racist, sexist and homophobic abuse at others should be banned for life, four-times world champion Sebastian Vettel said after reported incidents at Sunday’s Austrian Grand Prix.

The sport condemned the behaviour at the Red Bull Ring, where most of the crowd was supporting Red Bull’s world champion Max Verstappen and campsites are full of the Dutch driver’s ‘Orange Army’.

Mercedes’ seven-times world champion Lewis Hamilton, Formula One’s only Black driver, said he was ‘disgusted and disappointed’.

“Whoever these people are, they should be ashamed of themselves and they should be banned from racing events for their lives,” Aston Martin driver Vettel told reporters.

“I think there should be zero tolerance.”

Mercedes team boss Toto Wolff, an Austrian, said the abuse had to stop and the culprits dealt with but the crowd should not be condemned as a whole.

He said real fans of whatever team or driver could not be racist, sexist or homophobic because otherwise “you don’t fit Formula One and we don’t want you.

“On the other side, just because there’s a few drunk, dumb-asses out there that haven’t comprehended how the world goes today, we shouldn’t condemn the 99.9% of the fans that come here.

“There are always going to be these idiots around,” he added when asked whether Formula One had become more ‘tribal’.

“The sport polarises and triggers emotions. We want that… A few amoebas, people with one (brain) cell, let’s not make it a general thing.

“We just need to target these guys and pick them out.”

Mercedes said they invited one Czech fan, who wrote on social media how she was harassed by drunken male spectators who lifted her dress and said she deserved no respect as a Hamilton supporter, to watch the race in their garage.

(Reporting by Alan Baldwin, editing by Christian Radnedge)