Mercedes team principal Toto Wolff has revealed some of the horrible abuse he has been subjected to over the years in light of the awful behaviour of some of the fans in Austria last weekend.
There were reports of drunk fans in Spielberg perpetrating racist and homophobic abuse over the course of the weekend, and some women were victims of disgusting sexual harassment.
Multiple drivers and teams spoke out against the conduct of some of the spectators, and Formula 1 promised to work with the promoters and security staff to ensure that the harrowing events are not repeated in future.
Wolff was one of those to tell any fans guilty of abuse that they are not welcome in Formula 1, and he has now explained why the reports of awful fan behaviour hit him hard.
“I was subject of antisemitism in Vienna; I wasn’t a Jew, but my best friend was and I lived with his family,” said the Austrian.
“And I know how it is on Saturday morning to walk into the Synagogue and have antisemitic abuse and it is just terrible.”
The 50-year-old does not accept the premise that people should be forced to enjoy harmful jokes because of who they are.
“I think how it evolved over time, it was somehow understood that you have to accept a little bit of suffering if somebody was making a sexist comment or something that was just described as banter, but today, that is just not on anymore,” explained Wolff.
“People feel truly hurt or discriminated and that is why we all need to be more aware.”
“Banter” is a word that has been thrown around a lot in recent years, and is often used as cover for discriminative and offensive language.
But discrimination is discrimination, and the Austrian asks people to be more considerate before making offensive jokes, particularly since times have changed over the last decade.
“We have grown up with that banter, how many pictures do I still get sent ‘hehe, haha?’ But I have the perfect professor at home,” explained Wolff, referring to wife, former Formula 1 driver and current Venturi Formula E team principal, Susie.
“Susie sees that and says that was seen as funny 10 years ago because nobody cared, but I can tell you it’s borderline or for me that is too much.
“For us, guys who have had that and it was always seen as banter, we just need to have a little bit of a mind shift because the girls and the ladies don’t want that anymore.”
Aston Martin’s Sebastian Vettel has called for life bans to be handed out to anyone who abuses others while attending a race.