Lewis Hamilton has backtracked on his earlier praise of the protestors who took to the Silverstone circuit as the British Grand Prix was red-flagged following a multi-car crash at the start.
Protest group ‘Just Stop Oil’ invaded the circuit on Sunday, walking onto the track and sitting down on the Wellington straight shortly after the race had begun.
The timing of their protest was fortunate as, with the race red-flagged, none of the drivers went racing past them, although Esteban Ocon, limping back to the pits with his damaged car, had to drive by.
Told of the protest during the post-race press conference, Hamilton praised the bunch for taking a stand.
“I just said big up the protestors,” said the Mercedes driver, who finished P3. “I love that people are fighting for the planet. We need more people like them.”
But with fans reacting negatively given that if the race had been on, the protestors would have risked not only their lives but those of the drivers, Mercedes were quick to try to clarify their driver’s comment.
“Lewis was endorsing their right to protest but not the method they chose, which compromised their safety and that of others,” Mercedes said.
Hamilton has since backtracked, saying while he supports protesting it must be done in a safe manner.
“As we’ve seen today, this is a very dangerous sport,” he said on social media.
“I wasn’t aware of the protests today and while I will always support those standing up for what they believe in, it must be done safely.
“Please don’t jump onto our race circuits to protest, we don’t want to put you in harm’s way.”
“I think people have the opportunity to speak out and do manifestations wherever they want because it’s a right, but I don’t believe jumping onto an F1 track is a good way to do it because you put yourself at risk and all the drivers,” said the Ferrari driver.
“I support the cause and I think F1 is doing a great job already to try and go carbon zero by 2030 and we are pushing in this area, and we pushing F1 and the FIA to find ways to go in this direction.
“I just don’t believe jumping onto an F1 track is the right way to manifest yourself and protest. You need to be a bit more careful because you could get killed and create an accident.”
Sunday’s race was red-flagged following a multi-car crash, Zhou Guanyu’s Alfa Romeo flipped upside down before hurtling through the gravel at Abbey where it flipped again and hit the catch fencing.
The driver was unhurt while Alex Albon, who hit the concrete barrier on the pit straight nose first, was taken to hospital for further checks.
While F1’s medical team was seeing to the drivers, the marshals were rounding up the protestors before security and the police stepped in.
“We confirm that after the red flag, several people attempted to enter the track,” an FIA statement read. “These people were immediately removed and the matter is now being dealt with by the local authorities.”