Mick Schumacher, Haas, Silverstone, 2022

‘There’s people sitting on the track!’: How F1 drivers saw the British GP protest

2022 British Grand Prix

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The attempted protest by a group of anti-oil activists at the British Grand Prix failed to gain significant attention as the race was already disrupted before their demonstration began.

The race was red-flagged within moments of the original start as several drivers crashed at the first corner, including Zhou Guanyu whose Alfa Romeo was launched over a tyre barrier.

While marshals at one point on the circuit responded to a major, multi-car crash, others further around the circuit were tackling a group of protesters who were trying to access the live race track.

Northamptonshire police had issued a warning two days earlier of a plan to disrupt the race. So when drivers spotted people closer to the track than they should have been, several of them realised these were not simply fans standing in the wrong place.

Fernando Alonso was one of the drivers who saw people by the track but didn’t realise what they were doing. “He didn’t know they were protesters,” said Alpine team principal Otmar Szafnauer. “He said there’s fans on the track. The reason I think he reported it is so that we could then report it to the FIA, which is what we did.”

Here’s what Alonso and the other drivers who spotted the protesters told their teams about them.

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Carlos Sainz Jnr

SainzUgh, what are these guys doing? Look at the spectators coming onto the track.

Charles Leclerc

Marcos PadrosAnd red flag. Red flag.
LeclercSome people are on the track, outside of turn seven.
Marcos PadrosCopy.

Lando Norris

JosephRed flag. Red flag. So remember, keep it positive – no overtaking. We’ll be lining up in the pit lane.
NorrisEveryone alright?
JosephJust checking now.
NorrisOh! There’s fans on track. Down the back straight.
JosephOkay, understood. That’s separate as well, so I think it’s multiple things.
NorrisYeah, there’s people on track under the bridge down to turn seven.
JosephUnderstood, just take every precaution.

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Fernando Alonso

LoosJust stay positive on brakes, stay positive on brakes. Just checking what happened behind.
AlonsoIt’s people on the track. I think it’s spectators, out of five.
LoosOkay, copy copy. There’s also an accident, turn one. We’ve got Russell, Zhou and Albon out. And we’ve got Tsunoda and, looks like, Esteban with damage.

Valtteri Bottas

ChanOkay, red flag, red flag. RS off and mode-SC. Mode Safety Car.
ChanSo looks like a collision between Zhou, Russell and Albon is also involved.
BottasYeah, just let me know if Zhou is okay. There’s some people on track here, where I am now, so, really strange.
ChanOn the track itself?
BottasYeah, on the left side.
ChanOkay, understood.
BottasSome protesters or something. So I’ve picked up some debris on the way, so just when I come back, have a look.

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Mick Schumacher

SchumacherHow many cars are out?
GannonEr… at least…
SchumacherThere are people on the track here! There are people on the track!
GannonOkay, we’ll report it.
SchumacherLike, there are five people on the track. I think they’re gonna… I don’t know- oh, they’re sitting down.
GannonThree are definitely out, two more are damaged and behind you. You have Vettel and Stroll ahead, so you have Tsunoda and Ocon behind who were involved in it.

Nicholas Latifi

JegoOkay, red flag, red flag.
LatifiRed flag.
JegoSo make sure we keep the brakes… There was a big crash, turn one. So remember, red flag: You will go in. Go in. You’ll be back in the pit lane, and leave room to the car in front of you and to the left. Try to keep brake temperature as much as you can.
LatifiCopy. Yeah, everyone’s crawling, so not possible. I think there’s some protesters out on the track as well. In between five and six, there’s protesters, it looks like.
JegoCopy. Remember, try to put temperature into your brakes.

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2022 British Grand Prix

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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...
Will Wood
Will has been a RaceFans contributor since 2012 during which time he has covered F1 test sessions, launch events and interviewed drivers. He mainly...

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11 comments on “‘There’s people sitting on the track!’: How F1 drivers saw the British GP protest”

  1. always amazed by ability of drivers to hold down parallel conversations & issues.

    1. And how several of them were doing that and able to see they were protesters (I guess those that had been following UK media so had some inkling?), makes me feel a bit safer on this (though that doesn’t excuse those protesters from being really reckless not just with their own, but with drivers and marshals, and potential other visitors’ lives).

  2. Some people clearly haven’t heard of Tom Pryce… ironically Zhou’s horrible incident may well have saved a number of lives…

    1. @tommy-c Indeed. Without Zhou’s shunt or any incidents & collisions for that matter, neither red, SC, nor even VSC would’ve come out, in which case everyone would’ve approached the invaders at full throttle.

  3. I had rewatched (F1TV Pro) the onboard from Bottas right away to see the accident, but had not let play long enough to see the protesters on the left side of the track just before a bridge. They are easily seen from any onboard.

  4. If it’s terrifying is it terrorism?

    1. @ferrox-glideh Not automatically, at least under UK law. The last time anything like this happened, it was treated as aggravated trespassing (non-legal definition: trespasser who was being aggravating) and 6 weeks in prison resulted (alas, the one who did it failed to learn the necessary lesson).

      Under UK law, the action has to be designed to scare the public (not just have that as an incidental effect) or attempt to influence the government or an international governmental organisation. Arguably, this missed the definition.

      (It does meet the requirement of being an attempt to advance an ideological cause of some description, and it did endanger the lives/health of people who were not signatories to the protest).

      On the other hand, the refusal to engage with the police and the variety of alternative, safer means of protest available at the venue means there’s a whole bevy of protest laws that were broken (some of which the protesters might even be happy to admit). Thus, I doubt the sentence this time will be as short as 6 weeks.

  5. F1 cars are incredibly safe these days but for the drivers. Not a human being seated on the track. Looks like some people don’t understand this – thankfully, we didn’t get to see the potential results of their folly.

  6. One has to wonder how the planning session for this went.

    “So yeah, on lap 1, when they’re at full speed and battling two or three wide, constantly looking in the mirrors… THAT is when we will walk onto the track and sit down in front of the cars. No doubt they’ll all brake nicely and calmly and nobody will crash into us or create a chain reaction that’ll hurtle a spinning car or five right at us.”

    Good protest y’all, smart thinking there. They can be glad there was a red flag because the chance of casualties here was significant. Such stupidity is incomprehensible to me.

    1. Anthony French
      4th July 2022, 13:18

      I think the reality is none of them will ever have watched F1 or they would realise this was likely to end with them and possibly a driver or two dead.

      What happened to Tom Pryce at Kyalami was horrific, as was what happened to the marshal. At the risk of being graphic, the speed and impact did such damage to his body that no one realised until much later that he was missing, let alone killed. No one had seen him get hit.

      Even with all the modern safety standard if a driver had been hit by body parts or anything carried by the protestors, the outcome could have been very damaging both physically and emotionally.

    2. @sjaakfoo I suspect the plan was, “Well, there’s bound to be a Safety Car or red flag at some point, so we’ll wait here until we see something that’s likely to cause one, then go onto the track when the cars are going slowly. Because that should be 300% safe and will get our message to millions”. Apparently without noticing that the message they actually broadcast was that they were clueless people who should be disregarded.

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