Frederico Rodriquez, general manager of the Mexican Grand Prix, explains that the ‘racepect’ campaign was launched because he notices that the audience in Formula 1 is changing. He felt it necessary to do something about the behavior between fans in the stands and around the world. The problem with hateful and toxic responses from fans towards others and drivers has been an issue for some time.
As Formula 1’s fan base becomes increasingly divided, organizers of the Mexico Grand Prix took matters into their own hands to reduce inappropriate behavior at their event. In the past few editions it was heard that the booing of drivers increased more and more. Last year Max Verstappen was the loser, and this year Charles Leclerc, who was booed by Mexican fans because of the incident with their home hero Sergio Pérez. Mexico City promoters were alarmed by anti-social behavior at sporting events around the world, fueled by toxic polarization on social media and in society at large.
Ahead of the Mexican Grand Prix, they launched an awareness campaign called ‘racepect’, encouraging fans to leave the fighting to the twenty F1 drivers on track and not let it spill over to the stands or online platforms. Tensions over the 2021 championship battle between Verstappen and Lewis Hamilton, which spilled out profusely across social media, have largely subsided but remain alive online. Just like the hateful reactions towards Verstappen and Red Bull from Mexico. “We’ve noticed this in recent years, not just in racing or Formula 1, but it’s something that has caught our attention in other sports, in football, in baseball, in sports all over the world,” Rodriquez said in conversation with Autosport.
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“So we decided to launch this campaign of respect, because I think this is something that this sport needs, to do something about what is happening in the stands and around the world,” the general manager continued. ‘The idea is to tackle the fanaticism in the stands. Because Max is Checo’s teammate, I think we push things beyond the limits.” However, that did not go completely smoothly, during the race images emerged of a Ferrari fan being beaten up by a Mexican fan. However, the organization quickly put an end to that, and the person was banned from racing for life. “So the idea is to come back and keep this sport a family sport and keep the competition on the court and not off it.”
Composition of the audience has changed: ‘Maybe with people from other sports’
Formula 1’s recent growth has not only expanded its fan base, but also diversified it, both for better and for worse. Concerns have been raised that the hooliganism that has plagued football, mainly in Europe and Latin America, has now spread to motor racing. This antisocial behavior takes many forms, ranging from simple partisanship to racism and poor treatment of women, such as what happened last year in Austria and in Zandvoort. ‘I think the audience is changing. This is our eighth race here and I see changes in the fans. I think we have new fans, maybe from other sports,” Rodriquez surmises.
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‘I think it’s better to explain that this is a different sport. The rules are different and the battle must be on the track,” the Mexican continues. Race day was the big test of the campaign, which, as mentioned earlier, did not fully work. But despite the isolated incident, early indications are that the weekend, which attracted a record 400,638 spectators, including 152,668 on race day, went more smoothly than feared. “We are exceptionally proud of the #Racepect campaign and its impact on our fans, the majority of whom were respectful throughout the weekend,” said Rodriquez. “Thanks to the support of the teams, drivers and the Formula 1 community itself, we were able to spread the message far and wide and the campaign has really worked beyond expectations.”