F1 Dutch GP promotes inclusivity and clamps down on flare use

The organisers of Formula 1's Dutch Grand Prix aim to improve the fan experience at this year’s event by promoting inclusivity and clamping down on the use of flares by spectators.

Max Verstappen, Red Bull Racing RB18, 1st position, waves from his cockpit as fans turn the air orange in celebration

The sheer scale of the support for local hero Max Verstappen can be intimidating to overseas visitors of fans of other drivers, and Zandvoort is keen to avoid the sort of harassment issues that were reported in Austria last year.

The Red Bull Ring issues prompted the F1 organisation and race promoters to clamp down on unruly or intimidating behaviour, and led to the Drive it Out campaign, which also encompasses social media abuse.

Dutch GP director Imre van Leeuwen has said special measures will in force at the event this year, including a designated place for fans to report any issues or bad experiences that they might encounter, which is one of the requirements set by Drive it Out.

“The first year, we only had Dutchies because of COVID,” van Leeuwen told Autosport. “So it started like that. But I would be really disappointed in our fans if, as a Ferrari or Lewis Hamilton fan, you wouldn't feel safe.

“That's totally unacceptable and we won't let it happen. We cannot tolerate it, and we will take people's tickets away.

“Everybody should feel welcome. We need drivers to compete, otherwise there's no race. If we only have Max racing around it wouldn't be F1!”

Max Verstappen, Red Bull Racing RB18, Charles Leclerc, Ferrari F1-75, Carlos Sainz, Ferrari F1-75, Lewis Hamilton, Mercedes W13, Sergio Perez, Red Bull Racing RB18, George Russell, Mercedes W13, the rest of the field away at the start

Max Verstappen, Red Bull Racing RB18, Charles Leclerc, Ferrari F1-75, Carlos Sainz, Ferrari F1-75, Lewis Hamilton, Mercedes W13, Sergio Perez, Red Bull Racing RB18, George Russell, Mercedes W13, the rest of the field away at the start

Photo by: Steve Etherington / Motorsport Images

The 2022 Austrian GP issues and Drive it Out campaign have led to an increased focus on fan behaviour at all race venues.

“Together with F1 our safety manager and the people involved from our team had meetings with Austria, with Belgium, with Barcelona, places where lots of Dutch fans go,” said van Leeuwen.

“It's good to celebrate and have a party, but it's not good to intimidate people, or behave in a disrespectful way.

“So yes, it's very important to stop that. We have a work group with the other promoters. We took extra measures on informing the people on what do we like, and what we don't like. Of course, we will punish people. It's important topic for us, that everybody feels safe.

“We have now an information point so if something happens to you, you can tell your story there, there will be reports, we can calm you down if something nasty happens.

“We're working with the police and trying to inform people as well as we can. Luckily, in Austria it went very well I think this year, and I didn't hear of any issues."

Smoke flare on the trackside

Smoke flare on the trackside

Photo by: Alastair Staley / Motorsport Images

One ongoing topic at Zandvoort has been the use of orange flares by fans, and van Leeuwen has made it clear that they are not allowed at the circuit.

“Because of the popularity of the sport and Max, fans brought in these flares in Austria a few years ago,” he said.

“The image looked great on TV, and they shot footage with the flares. So a normal fan, not a hooligan but a normal fan, thinks he is a good fan if he brings a flare.

“Now you see that there are so many that it's dangerous, and it’s not good for your health. We have to inform the people now you're not a good fan if you have a flare, you're a good fan if you don't have a flare. If you see a flare that you say, ‘Come on guy, this is dangerous for my health.’

“This is also dangerous for the drivers, because I think two years ago during the formation lap in Austria, the drivers had poor vision. That was something that a normal fan did not know. They just saw two guys with a flare and then there were four guys and then eight and 16 and 32. Now we have to bring it down."

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Keeping fans informed of what is acceptable and what isn’t is a key priority for the Zandvoort organisers.

“We try to communicate during the day via the LED screens,” he explained. “They are good for the entertainment, and also good to inform the fans on how to behave as a good fan.

“I think we brought some innovation in the entertainment programme, but also in the way we also communicate with our information points, or via WhatsApp.

“We can divide the target groups. If it's busy at Gate 1, we can inform people that it's better to go to Gate 2, or if there is a delay in the trains, we can inform people.”

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