David Coulthard believes F1’s increasing concern about fans’ behaviour could be eased by an act of unity from Lewis Hamilton and Max Verstappen.
Conduct of spectators at grands prix has been placed in the spotlight following incidences in Britain and Austria of drivers being jeered, including Hamilton when he crashed in qualifying at the Red Bull Ring.
Even more unpleasantly, Formula 1 were alerted to examples of racist and homophobic abuse in Austria, to which they issued a statement on Sunday saying “this kind of behaviour is unacceptable and will not be tolerated”.
Hamilton also made reference to that behaviour in a social media post, saying he had been “disgusted” to hear about it, while Verstappen has cited the factor of alcohol consumption having revealed he had “read a few shocking things”.
Of course, fans will inevitably be polarised in their support for certain drivers and that is very much the case with Hamilton and Verstappen, who fought out one of the most intense World Championship battles in F1 history throughout 2021.
They are very different personalities and 13 years apart in terms of age, but Coulthard thinks, despite not being close buddies or even friends at all, the high-profile duo could still play a part in defusing tension between rival factions of fans.
The Scot was speaking on Channel 4 in response to a dig from Verstappen about Hamilton being able to hit an apex at the age of 37, regarding a comparison of the Mercedes’ driver’s battle against Charles Leclerc at Silverstone this year and his collision with the Dutchman at Copse corner in 2021 which put the Red Bull man in hospital for precautionary checks.
“I think it’s the age gap, it’s a generational thing,” said the Scot. “Lewis and Max just don’t have a connection, that is there with Charles and Carlos [Sainz] and Lando [Norris] and George [Russell], all these guys of a generation.
“And that maybe doesn’t seem like much, 10 or 11 years or whatever the age gap is, but in sport that’s more than a generation.
“I actually would like to see them both get their arms around each other’s shoulders and make a statement to the fans of Formula 1 because we heard some booing for Max at Silverstone – I really don’t feel comfortable with that in Formula 1.
“I’m all for who you want to support, but let’s be sporting, let’s make this something which is respectful.”
F1 drivers and officials condemn abusive behaviour
Multiple reports of racism, homophobia and sexual harassment plagued the Austrian Grand Prix weekend.