British Grand Prix: Lewis Hamilton backs protests but Mercedes question methods

By Andrew BensonChief F1 writer
Carlos Sainz questioned protesters' methods
Carlos Sainz, left, questioned the protesters' methods

Leading drivers said they backed the cause of protesters who demonstrated on environmental issues after a track invasion at the British Grand Prix.

But they questioned the methods chosen after a group opposing global oil usage sat down on Silverstone's Wellington straight after the start of the race.

Mercedes driver Lewis Hamilton said: "Big up the protesters.

"I love that people are fighting for the planet and we need more people like them."

His Mercedes team added: "Lewis was endorsing their right to protest but not the method that they chose, which compromised their safety and that of others."

Later Hamilton wrote on Instagram: "Please don't jump on to our race circuits to protest, we don't want to put you in harm's way."

A group of people, wearing T-shirts protesting against global oil usage, walked on to the Wellington straight as cars passed at low speeds, before being removed by police.

The race had been red flagged following a large crash on the opening lap.

Racing, which had started at 15:00 BST, resumed under an hour later with Ferrari driver Carlos Sainz taking his maiden F1 victory in the race.

Sainz said he also supported the protesters' cause but not the way they had chosen to voice it.

"People have the opportunity to speak out and do manifestations wherever they want because it's a right," the Spaniard said. "I just don't believe jumping into an F1 track is the best way to do it, and putting yourself and all the drivers at risk.

"Yes, I support the cause and F1 is doing a great job already to try and go carbon zero by 2030, and we are pushing on this area and we are pushing F1 and the FIA to find ways to go in this direction.

"I just don't believe jumping into an F1 track is the right way to manifest yourself and protest. Be a bit more careful, because you could get killed and generate an accident."

Red Bull's Sergio Perez, who finished second, backed Sainz's view.

"It's great to see people fight for the cause but obviously it's good (if) they don't put themselves or other people are risk," the Mexican said.

"I'm sure F1 can still do more and we have to keep pushing all together to show a good example."

F1 has pledged to go net-zero carbon by 2030 and is introducing sustainable synthetic fuels with a new engine formula in 2026.

F1 president Stefano Domenicali did not comment on the protesters' cause, but said it was "stupid and dangerous to put their lives and the lives of others at risk".

The group were removed by police while the race was suspended.

"We can confirm that after the red flag, several people attempted to enter the track," Formula 1 said in a statement.

"These people were immediately removed and the matter is now being dealt with by the local authorities."

Northamptonshire Police later said seven people had been arrested.

On Friday, police had said they had "received credible intelligence" that a group of protestors were planning to disrupt the event and "possibly invade the track on race day" and had appealed to the group not to carry out the protest.

On Sunday, chief inspector Tom Thompson said: "I'm really disappointed that this group of people ignored our warnings prior to race day and made the incredibly dangerous decision to enter the track.

"We offered to facilitate a peaceful event at the circuit but they instead chose to put the lives of the drivers, marshals and volunteers at risk. It is incredibly disappointing that anyone would make the decision to do this.

"Thankfully, we had plans in place for an eventuality such as this and the group were swiftly removed and arrested by our officers.

"All seven are currently in custody where their details are being ascertained."

The group Just Stop Oil said they staged the protest. They want "an immediate halt to new oil and gas projects in the UK" and said they would "continue to disrupt sports, cultural events and oil until this demand is met".

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