Russell reveals “strange” first experience of being booed at F1 race

2022 British Grand Prix

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George Russell says spectators jeering drivers “needs to be stamped out” after experiencing it for the first time at the last race in Canada.

The Mercedes driver says he has received much more attention since joining the team from Williams this year, and not all of it has been positive.

“As your profile raises, there’s a lot of positives that come with it, no doubt,” he told media at Silverstone yesterday. “But there’s also downsides to it that also take a bit of readjusting.

“I had the first time in Montreal somebody shout my name and boo at me. I’m just sat in the car on the drivers’ parade and it’s quite a strange thing to comprehend that this 35, 40-year-old guy is booing at me when I don’t even know him.”

Russell says he has no idea why the spectator was jeering at him. “I just try to keep myself to myself and just try to do my best every single race I go to and put on a good show and be polite and pleasant to everyone. There are some things that you need to sort of get used to and just accept that this is unfortunately the world and society we live in at the moment.”

Sportspeople do not deserve to be booed at by spectators, Russell said. “This is another example of something that needs to be stamped out.

“What gives that guy the right to boo at anyone? What gives the right for these football fans hurling abuse at the players? They’re just doing their job, doing their best to have a career. And I think that’s what a lot of people don’t really appreciate in this position.”

Earlier this week Formula 1 criticised by Nelson Piquet’s use of a racist term to described Russell’s team mate Lewis Hamilton. Formula 2 driver Juri Vips has also been dropped from the Red Bull Junior Team – but not his F2 squad Hitech – for using a racial slur during a live video stream.

Russell said the recent racism controversies show more must be done to tackle discrimination.

“I think it’s clear that we all need to do more to stamp out all of the racism that is going around within not just the motorsport world, but society. And I think it goes further than just this, as well, with social abuse that people receive on online.

“It’s great to see so many come together and put forward their views and stand in support. I think we all have a duty to do more. It’s just shocking to see in today’s day and age that we’re still continuing with this.”

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Keith Collantine
Lifelong motor sport fan Keith set up RaceFans in 2005 - when it was originally called F1 Fanatic. Having previously worked as a motoring...
Claire Cottingham
Claire has worked in motorsport for much of her career, covering a broad mix of championships including Formula One, Formula E, the BTCC, British...

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87 comments on “Russell reveals “strange” first experience of being booed at F1 race”

  1. Sportspeople do not deserve to be booed at by spectators, Russell said.

    I am sorry but George comes across as someone very soft. Aren’t cheering and booing part of fandom and fan culture ?!

    1. Booing someone just because you’re a fan of another sportsman is absolutely pathetic.

      Given that it does happen i suppose it is a part of ‘sports culture’, but really shouldn’t be.

      1. booing one person doesnt necessarily mean he is cheering for another. it is but a display of emotion and part of sport fandom/culture. neither you or me can change it. i dont see anything wrong with being booed unless there is some malicious intent behind.

    2. @webtel Even if that’s true, does that say anything about its merit?

      Why engage with anything in such a negative and disruptive manner – least of all a sport you care about? It’s boo-rish.

      1. @maichael
        What makes you think booing is negative and disruptive ? When has it ever been that way ?

        1. @webtel It’s always been that way, because booing is petty by nature.

          Booing means expressing your displeasure with someone in a situation where they can’t defend themselves.

          That a person can feel so strongly about someone they don’t even know personally is anything but wholesome.

          On top of that, spectators – who have nothing to do with how that person booing feels – have to deal with it too.

          It’s like having a problem with a colleague and deciding to start talking behind their backs, rather than to their face. The same petty – and frankly cowardly – impulses are at play here.

          We can and should do better than this.

          1. I disagree with your definition of booing means expressing your displeasure with someone in a situation where they can’t defend themselves.

            If anything it’s just a way of showing your emotion…same way when someone cheers their favourite.

            Thousands booed, max barely flinched. Hope he stays that way.

            Unfortunately @maichael
            The crowd at Silverstone just showed how petty they are. Am sure we’ll see a lot such petty fans at zandvoort too.
            And probably most of the world is petty in that regard.

    3. I started to like Russell for his perfomances, but from time to time he appears to say something utterly dumb.
      We have ample evidence on how dumb drivers can be. A comment like Russell’s are not as offensive as a racist one, but it show that every generation of drivers can get attached to different silly stupid things.

      1. ?! So Russell asking why anyone should boo him for no reason is offensive?
        I mean it’s a serious question, would any of us here boo a driver? It’s plain idiotic and kind of pathetic, feeling protected or hidden because you’re part of a crowd. Even if I think a driver has driven cynically to win a GP, I detest any booing of them at the end of the race.

        1. Obviously, the likes of Barry would boo – 24/7 if possible…:-)

          I agree it is utterly pathetic and says a lot about the person doing it.

      2. He’s also stunningly arrogant and smug.

    4. Sports fans should sit passively and simply observe the sport in a non-emotional fashion. Especially those that have paid hundreds/thousands of dollars for event tickets. I assume he was being booed because he is beating Hamilton – seems a little silly to criticize someone for being really good at their job.

      1. not everything that is wrong with F1 is hamilton or his fans fault.

        1. @lucifer Sometimes I fear that Lewis’s anti-fans have fallen into one of those parallel worlds where everything is created by one mind, a bit like Being John Malkovich, meaning that everything really is one person’s fault in their world (Hamilton’s in their case)…
          (Not saying that’s the case of @dot_com btw, applies to plenty of others here though.)

          1. They can’t stay off the topic. I think last year did serious damage to some fragile minds.

    5. I don’t know what reason someone would have to boo George Russell. But booing should absolutely be part of the sport. I don’t know what he’s talking about. Should be as legal and acceptable as shouting support.

      As for the other comments in the thread… booing doesn’t need to be on merit. It can be on a whim. Maybe you dislike a certain driver, or you’re just being an idiot. It doesn’t matter. I want that right protected. This is a loud sport, in a stadium-like environment.

      Booing is even necessary to show the absolute disdain for something that happened on track that day. I was in Austria 2002 and I went hoarse from booing that absolute clown show of Barrichello letting Michael through on the last lap. Rosberg got booed for the dirty move on Hamilton at Spa in 2014. I was also at Spa last year and there was a lot of booing. Hamilton then got booed in Hollland by the dutch fans, largely because of his dirty move on Verstappen earlier in the year in Silverstone. Vettel got booed a few times as well for some of his tantrums. Alonso got booed in Silverstone for years after 2007.

      It isn’t always fair, but it’s absolutely part of the sport. So long as cheering is allowed, booring and jeering should also be allowed

      1. Sorry, what??

        It’s meant to be a gentlemans sport. This isn’t football. Booing has no place in F1.

      2. spot on. While he can always question and wonder why he was booed, Russell saying sportsperson dont deserve to be booed is just outlandish to say the least.

      3. Well said. Let’s not forget that the drivers get paid a small fortune to be there and the spectators pay a lot of money to be there. So I think they have the right to make whatever noise they wish! If someone wants to pay me £100k to race a car at Silverstone this weekend I’ll happily take whatever abuse and muck you can throw at me. Fruit, vegetables, faeces, no problem.

      4. Completely agree.,
        Allthough booing is sometimes quite stupid it’s just as much part of the game as cheering. No positives without negatives.

    6. I really don’t get people booing F1 drivers. first of all they are literally risking their life driving F1 cars. The fact that it has become rarer, doesn’t detract from its intrinsic risks.
      but what I really don’t get is: you have to be present at the event to boo the driver in question. to be present at F1 events is never cheap, it always requires a big commitment to spend a considerable amount of your own money to go and watch F1. One would assume that this commitment can only come from someone really passionate and enthusiastic about what he’s paying for. If you are passionate and enthusiastic about F1 you probably know at least something about it. You know that in the 60s and 70s F1 drivers died like mosquitoes during races. And today’s drivers are doing the same thing, only cars and track got much safer. And then you boo a driver for…? No apparent reason? really? I would get it -just maybe- for antisportive behaviors, for driving too badly, too slowly, too dangerously, for crashing into other people… but booing F1 drivers just because? that’s just blatant stupidity, this is not the opposite of cheering, it’s just lack of basic sense

      1. Do we cheer fishermen? Their job is exponentially more deadly than being an F1 driver. In fact, there’s an endless list of jobs more dangerous than F1.

        A driver isn’t a hero for doing something they love, which comes with fame, wealth, women and so much more. I race cars that are slower, but less protected and a greater chance of injury and death. It’s not heroic. It’s a hobby.

        1. Do we cheer fishermen?

          we surely don’t boo them… ?

  2. Weird. I never thought he’d get booed.

  3. To be fair, what did George do to get booed by the Canadian fans in the first place ?? Is it just because he handed Latifi’s backside to him last year ?? Or because Lewis is revered in Canada in the same way Senna still is in Japan ??

    1. I would suspect the later.
      I can imagine that a lot of Lewis fans are enraged at how well he is performing with the Mercedes so far compared to their GOAT ;)

      1. not true but if it fits your narative then continue.

        1. Not true?
          So you know every Lewis fan on the face of the Earth do you?

    2. I would guess VER fans, with their negativity against Merc.

      1. I would guess HAM fans, with their negativity against RUS.

        1. Hamilton 8 x FIA Rules F1 Champion. GOAT. Russell, serious driver. The two top drivers in same team! Two drivers pushing Merx developments forward.
          Brake Tester 2021 1 lap Masi (the Turnip) rules Champion. Brake Tester 2022 team orders leader. Hey Perez watch out for the wobbly steering wheel. Watch out Perez you are driving for the DWT, headed by the DWIC, don’t expect C4 to give fair coverage!

          1. Are you like 12 years old?

        2. It’s possible to like both, even when they are in different teams, and now in the same.

        3. Painter Guy
          4th July 2022, 21:48

          Are Hamilton fans generally negative towards Russell? I can’t say I’d noticed. For me, Russell’s problem is he doesn’t know when to keep quiet, and the correct time for him to keep quiet is always, except when taking the blame for his failures, which he never does.

    3. Not fans, fan. It was one angry guy who for some reason dislikes George.

      1. Thanks for reminding us because after reading all the comments I was almost getting convinced it was the whole stand booing when Russell himself said it was a single individual.

  4. I think this is why I have never really been into sports.
    I do not understand the fan mentality of booing someone (who is doing something that you are incapable of doing) just because he isn’t on your team.
    Nor the blinkered worship of one team/person regardless of how well or poorly they perform from event to event.

    The comments above are right though – toughen up and get used to it George.
    The more you succeed the more you will attract the hatred of sad little people who can not appreciate a talented sportsman.

    1. I used to behave like this at college basketball games etc. But it seems silly and weird now. I guess becoming an adult and seeing other grown men yelling at 18 year olds on a field doing incredible feats of skill because they rep a different city, nominally, started feeling gross.

    2. I do not understand the fan mentality of booing someone (who is doing something that you are incapable of doing)

      This is not “fan” mentality and has nothing to do with what a certain person is capable or incapable of doing.

      Anyone, including you and me, and even the nicest person in the world, will generate negative as well as positive feelings in others.

      And if someone chooses a career path where they become a public figure (like sportspeople, politicians, actors, celebrities etc.), it is only to be expected that (some of) the negative sentiment will be publicly expressed, too.

      Some guy surely dislikes me as much as this person dislikes Russell, it is just that they will not have a public platform to show their antipathy towards me because I have not decided to become a public figure, simple as that.

      So what this all amounts to, after all, is that I am afraid George is indeed a snowflake, as someone else has already noted in the comments below.

      1. Sorry but I have worked with football fans who have said vile things about players in the teams they do not support.
        Then that player transfers to their team and within a month or two they are telling you what a fantastic player that is.
        And of course vice versa.

        There truly are mindless, so called, “Fans” who will hate for no sane reason.

  5. Adam (@rocketpanda)
    1st July 2022, 12:20

    Not sure what Russell would have done to be booed. He’s too boring for that?

    Either way everyone has a favourite and you can boo your villain – just do it respectfully. You’re allowed to not like a driver or a different team and you’re allowed to voice that – just don’t be unnecessarily rude about it. Everyone’s smart enough to know where that line is.

    1. Well said.

    2. Everyone’s smart enough to know where that line is.

      If only this were true.

  6. I love Russell, he will make a great Champ, and is a young man of a lot of integrity. But booing has been part of sport since medieval times and before! He needs to lighten on this aspect which if taken with a pinch of salt, is just laughable.

  7. Eat some concrete and harden up George! This is the real world where we will never be able to appeal to everyone.

    1. Kimi R. probably had the best approach for this sort of thing.
      “Leave me alone, I know what I am doing … do you want ice-cream with that?”
      Always fascinating to watch NBA fans and their somewhat organized attempts to put opposing teams and players off their game. Can fans influence the outcome.? Only if the players let them.

  8. Probably a Hamilton fan whos not enjoying seeing Russell do so well. There are a lot of Hamilton fans in Canada from just observing the crowd over the years.

    Cheering and booing is part of sport in general. Kinda ridiculous statement to think it shouldn’t be a part of the sport. Sometimes it is appropriate. In his particular case probably not, but it’s something he’s going to have to get used to if he ever becomes world champ.. The more successful you are the more some fans dislike you.

  9. This is starting to remind me of the South Park episode about Safe Space.

    Every opinion one doesn’t agree with needs to be suffocated. That’s exactly how the world doesn’t work.

    1. Southpark +1. The latest F1 news also reminded me off southpark “wheel of fortune”.

  10. Is it the editors choice – in this and or sites – to portray F1 drivers as whinny entitled people?
    Everyday a new senseless complaint.
    There are 6-7 billion people in the world. F1 drivers are the 20 ones that are doing what they love and are paid milllions to do it.
    Booing is not throwing molotov cocktail on the drivers house.
    Sometimes jeering is even deserved (I can recall some Schumacher and Vettel situations). Even when it is not, I dont see as a massive aggressive act.
    Sorry, if booing is too mcuh for a drivers` ego, mayb it is time to review your career choice.

  11. I can only assume that these comments were made with tongue firmly implanted in cheek. Complaining about one guy booing him? Reminds me of the old woman booing the princes in the Princess Bride.

    1. Lol always love a Princess Bride reference.

  12. I would argue that booing is a way for the audience to provide feedback. If they are allowed to cheer, so should there be room to vent discontent. Maybe a more elegant way would be possible, but ruling out negative feedback sounds sensorious to me.

    1. The problem with that is that the drivers are the most public faces of F1, but rarely the ones responsible for the real or perceived problems with the sport.

      All the drivers really influence is their on track actions. They don’t have any say in the technical regulations, nor in the venues they race at, nor in the seemingly ever increasing interrupted sessions, nor in the way Liberty sells the rights to commercial pay-walled broadcasters. And when drivers misbehave, it’s up to the FIA-appointed stewards to penalize them. F1 fans should be able to trust the governing body to do their job properly. If they can’t; complain about the FIA stewards, not the drivers.

      That said, complaining about partisanship among the spectators is a bit silly when F1’s teams and drivers directly contribute to this “football fan” aspect of F1 by making a lot of money selling partisan merchandise to make sure ‘their guys’ stand out from ‘the others’.

  13. The current drivers should shut up & drive. The retired drivers should simply shut up.

  14. I don’t understand booing unless it’s for unsportsmanlike behavior. The only time I think Russell has been unsportsmanlike in Formula One was when he slapped Bottas’ helmet. He apologized that and it was a long time ago, so I’m quite sure the booing had nothing to do with it. So I agree with Russell that he didn’t deserve the booing.

    In any case, he should toughen up and just ignore the jerks. There will always be those that will boo to the drivers they don’t like for some reason. I’m sure Russell will get a lot more booing after admitting that it bothers him this much.

  15. “Stamp out” booing? Seriously?
    I like George a lot but I’ll defend the right of any fan to express themselves up to the point of being abusive.

    1. And I just don’t know how they could ‘stamp out’ booing. What would that look like? Boo police everywhere ready to kick offenders out? No thanks. I’d rather see these lone wolves free to embarrass themselves.

      Other side of the coin comes for example from Jeff Gordon in NASCAR who got booed all the time (for being successful) and he just took it in stride and took it as a compliment that he must be doing something right if he is beating ‘their guy.’ And he simply understood that folks are going to have ‘a guy’ and that’s not always going to be him.

  16. I just try to keep myself to myself and just try to do my best every single race I go to and put on a good show and be polite and pleasant to everyone.

    Oh no, this guy is destined to become another Lewis. The last thing you should do is let the masses know that something bothers you, because the worst of them will do it because it bothers you. And you have to realize that you’re not just some innocent person who nobody could ever be against; it’s supposed to be a competition and there will always be people rooting against you. It’s just the nature of sport.

    1. By another Lewis, do you mean a multiple WDC? Great then!

      1. No, I think he means being a sanctimonious hypocrite

  17. Naughty Neutral
    1st July 2022, 15:12

    If Hammy gets a kick out of it he’s just as bad as the booers.

  18. In most sports, the booing occurs during the sport itself. Such as football, rugby etc. The booing happens while the sportsperson is doing the sport and can be an instant reaction to a specific act the crowd don’t like. In F1 you can’t do that really as they’re all wearing helmets and driving cars that drown it out. So they get booed when doing mundane stuff like an interview or a drivers parade. It’s one thing getting booed when you’ve just committed a really bad foul, but booed when you’re being driven round a track at 20mph an hour before the race starts must feel a bit pointless!

  19. I’ve only been watching F1 for 8 years. In that time I’ve seen a lot of articles posted here about drivers sensitive to booing. Can someone explain to me why F1 drivers are so bad sensitive to it, and why the expectation of an F1 crowd is different than most other sports? (at least the ones I watch.)

    1. Let me try. F1. More than other sports is a competition between teams made up of people from all over the world competing around the world. And these teams are not attached to some city or country or university. There is also a sense that since this is in large part an engineering competition whose finer points are quite esoteric the fans will be, let’s say, better presented. That is this is not a sport where people primarily support their “side” no matter what. And likewise they don’t feel so invested in outcomes that they vilify particular participants. So when people try to force in narratives about national competition or bias or whatever it gets more scrutiny—-McLaren is no more or less “British” than Mercedes or RBR. And lots of casual fans who want to support their nationality or region and that alone seems a bit jarring to a lot of the hard core fans.

    2. Cause F1 drivers are rich spoiled kids.
      This isn’t something like football where they come often from middle/low class households with thicker skin.

  20. Booing is for children

    1. Nope, crying is for children. Children don’t boo, do they? Children cry. Have you ever seen a child?

      1. Yes, one just replied to me

  21. Rather immature of George to demand that spactators only express adulation towards him and no disapproval.

    1. Yeah, grow up George, crybaby.

  22. Crystal… clear that this new generation needs to toughen up. Where has he grown? Oh, yes, in a silver-spoon environment. Welcome to the real world. Horrible things are said all the time. That’s why there’s this current problem of drivers and former drivers saying nasty things… but booing in sports? That’s absolutely common. As long as nobody starts harassing him as it happened to Latifi last year, or to Hamilton last year, or to Verstappen all this week (by the press, no less), it’s part of the game.

  23. Awww, poor guy!

  24. If F1 wants to be as popular as other sports in North America, George and the other drivers better get more comfortable with being booed. Not only do fans here boo the opposing teams, but they will boo their own teams if they are not performing up to the fan’s expectations. The phrase “the boo birds are out as we head into the half” is not uncommon on broadcasts if the home team is performing poorly. Philadelphia and New York are notorious for how brutal the fan response can be. The best athletes use that crowd reaction as fuel for their performance, feeding off the boos.

    Having said that, there is a line that can not be stepped over. You can criticize an opposing team as they are introduced, someone’s play, a referee’s decision, general poor team effort, dirty sportsmanship, etc. but you can not criticize someone’s family, ethnicity, race, sexuality, background, etc. You can not throw things at or physically touch athletes. If you cross that line into unacceptable fan behavior, you’ll get tossed from the stands and most likely receive a permanent ban for future events. And rightfully so.

  25. José Lopes da Silva
    1st July 2022, 21:34

    I disagree with Russell about “stamp out” booing fans; booing is inside the limits of self-expression. I would recommend for him to toughen up mentally, because freedom of expression comes with the need to cope with this. Stamp out booers is not the solution.

    This said, he has total right to his freedom of expression. And I agree with Russell about the stupidity of booing. But stupidity is part of life.

    I can clearly see with Russell can get booed by a fan, but I’ll start a culture war here if I say the reason. I would have the right to say, but I prefer not to.

  26. Russel validates the booing by showing how it impacted him. That’s why people cheer and boo: because it affects the results so they are helping their favorite sportsmen to beat the others. It is a competition after all, and there are winners and losers so why should any driver expect everyone in the stands to be superpositive? Sport is a rollercoaster of ups and downs, positives and negatives.
    Russel should grow a thicker skin and a pair if this is enough pressure to rock his little boat so much. He used his platform to speak publicly and passionately about the end of last year’s championship, and what I assume is a Verstappen fan could be using his platform as a fan to react publicly and passionately. And I even agree with Russell on the matter of last year’s final race, but obviously many don’t.

  27. Mark in Florida
    2nd July 2022, 2:01

    I like George, I really do, but he needs to toughen up. If one guy booing you distracts you that badly you are easily thrown off your game. Mental strength is just as important as physical strength. You have to be strong in all areas to be a champion. Stamping people out that you disagree with was called Stalinism at one time. Variety of opinion and feelings give life flavor and interest. Conformity is not what the world needs. The reason I believe he was booed was because he’s driving a Merc now. When he was the perpetual under dog at Williams he was loved by all pretty much. When you go to a successful team and start beating the resident champ peoples perception of you suddenly changes. So don’t absorb to much praise nor criticism but be steady and maintain your goals in life.

  28. I wonder how many people who say that they disagree with booing also use a down vote button on web sites?

    He would have been better off to just wave and smile.

    1. José Lopes da Silva
      2nd July 2022, 8:57

      I don’t use a down vote button on web sites.
      I’m not sure if countries should legislate about it, but I’m considering it.

  29. It’s quite impressive (or disgraceful) that no comment so far has noted the parallel with booing/jeering and other recent social faux pas – such as Piquet’s comments and Vips’ choice of words.

    Are we all (collectively) really that keen to embrace such a gross double standard?
    Apparently yes. Yes we are.
    And darn proud of it too, according to the comments.

    1. José Lopes da Silva
      2nd July 2022, 9:09

      I don’t see the parallel, indeed, but I would like for you to develop the subject. I’ll be ready to explain my perspective from the long run, which I believe it relates to some people but it is seldom described in the media.

      1. Jeroen Bons
        2nd July 2022, 9:30

        George, you should be proud of being booed at, it means that you are almost as famous as Max.

      2. Why would you boo someone?
        Essentially, it’s to make them feel bad, isn’t it… To show your disapproval of their actions, their position, or even simply of them as a person. It’s a form of psychological abuse, just the same as bullying and discrimination.

        Many people here are publicly – and very strongly – condemning racism and discrimination… And yet those same screen names are equally enthusiastically defending their right to try to make other people feel bad, destabilise them and/or reduce their confidence.
        And it’s OK just because it happens within the sports arena? That sports people aren’t still human while they are ‘in the game’…?
        The (il)logical conclusion is that these same people think it’s OK to boo their parents, their partner, their children, their teacher, their boss, their favourite waitress at the cafe and complete strangers at the supermarket too….
        Hey, if booing isn’t hurting anyone, then you can do it everywhere, right?

        1. José Lopes da Silva
          2nd July 2022, 13:41

          “Many people here are publicly – and very strongly – condemning racism and discrimination… And yet those same screen names are equally enthusiastically defending their right to try to make other people feel bad, destabilise them and/or reduce their confidence.”
          Sorry, I’m still not understanding this. People are condemning racism and defending their right to boo? Could you give an example?

  30. The fastest way to dislike a driver is listening to them and their views.

  31. If we shouldn’t boo because “They’re just doing their job, doing their best to have a career. And I think that’s what a lot of people don’t really appreciate in this position.”, then we shouldn’t cheer either, for exactly the same reason….

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