Six members of the Just Stop Oil campaign group were convicted of causing a public nuisance on Friday after invading the track at the 2022 British Grand Prix at Silverstone.
The activists ran on to the Wellington straight on the opening lap of the race, held on July 3 last year, shortly before the race was suspended following Zhou Guanyu’s spectacular start-line crash, which prevented the cars from meeting the protestors at speed.
Amateur footage from trackside later showed a group of five protestors being dragged away by marshals and police, with a sixth arrested in a car park having been found with glue, cable ties and a Just Stop Oil banner.
Prosecutors said that the protestors – comprised of four men and two women and aged between 22 and 47 – had caused an immediate risk of serious harm to drivers, marshals and themselves.
All six – who have denied charges of conspiring with others to cause a public nuisance and causing a public nuisance – will be sentenced on at Northampton Crown Court on March 31 and were warned that they could face imprisonment.
Despite the dangerous nature of their protest, the Just Stop Oil members drew a mixed response from some high-profile members of the F1 fratenity.
Sebastian Vettel, a four-time World Champion and a passionate climate campaigner in the final days of his F1 career, admitted to being torn on the issue.
“Everybody is free to have their own view on it,” he said at the time.
“These people don’t act out of frustration but they are desperate and I very much sympathise with their fears and anxieties which I think everybody who understands the size of the problem that’s drifting towards us can understand.
“On the other hand, I see the other side. There’s marshals trying to stop people from doing these kind of things. You’re risking people that are involved in the race weekend, drivers, marshals. So there’s two sides.
“I think the message was very clear and I completely sympathise with their fears and anxieties.”
Vettel’s views were echoed by seven-time World Champion Lewis Hamilton, who added: “I love that people are fighting for the planet. We need more people like them.”
However, Hamilton later clarified his position in a statement issued via Instagram.
“While I’ll always support those standing up for what they believe in, it must be done safely,” he said. “Please don’t jump on to our race circuits to protest, we don’t want to put you in harm’s way.”