F1’s surge in popularity in recent years has been accompanied by a polarization of fan views in support of or in opposition to particular drivers, especially on social media.
Russell cited a real world example of being booed by a fan for no apparent reason on the parade lap of the Canadian GP.
“I think as your profile raises there’s a lot of positives that come with it, no doubt,” he said. “But there are also downsides to it that also take a bit of readjusting. In Montreal, I had somebody shout my name and boo at me
“And I’m just sitting in the car on the drivers’ parade. And it’s quite a strange thing to understand that this 35-40 year old guy is booing at me when I don’t even know him. I’m just trying to keep myself to myself and just trying to do my best every single race I go to and put on a good show and be polite and pleasant to everyone.
“So there are some things that you need to sort of get used to, and just accept that this is unfortunately the world and society we live in at the moment. And this is another example of something that needs to be stamped out.
“What gives that guy the right to boo at anyone? What gives the right for these football fans hurling abuse at the players? They’re just doing their job, doing their best to have a career. And I think that’s what a lot of people don’t really appreciate in this position.”
George Russell, Mercedes-AMG
Photo by: Steve Etherington / Motorsport Images
The GPDA director also expressed his support for the anti-racism messages that came from various F1 stakeholders in the light of the recent Nelson Piquet and Juri Vips controversies.
“I think it’s clear that we all need to do more to stamp out all of the racism that is going around within not just the motorsport world, but society,” he said. “And I think it goes further than just this as well – social abuse that people receive online.
“I think it’s great to see so many come together and put forward their views. And I think we all have a duty to do more. And it’s just shocking to see in today’s day and age that we’re still continuing with this.”
Asked if he thought the statement from F1 was enough, he questioned why the pre-race anti-racism knee gesture had stopped.
“I don’t think anything is really enough,” he said. “I haven’t seen the statement from F1 itself. So I can’t comment solely on that. But I think I heard earlier it’s been two years since the first race in 2020 when we all took a knee in Austria.
“And I think when the decision came that we stopped, a lot of people argued why are we stopping this? Because it hasn’t been like racism has been solved, and that there’s still no racist abuse going around. There’s a huge amount of going around.
“And I think this week it’s just been shocking to see it from two different ends of the spectrum, from somebody who’s clearly I would say stuck in his ways, from an older generation, but also from a youngster. I think we will need to do more.”
Asked if the GPDA would talk about the return of the knee gesture, he said: “I’m not too sure what we will talk about exactly, but there’s definitely conversations that we need to have and talk between us to use our platform for a greater good.
“I think we’ve spoken so much about this over the past couple of years, whether it’s been mental health, whether it’s been to tackle racism or social abuse, and we are just racing drivers, we aren’t politicians of sorts.
“I think we all feel this duty to use our platform to not only help educate people, it’s also educational on a number of these topics for all of us.
“But when it comes to racism or social abuse, I don’t think anybody needs education there. It’s just shocking to see it’s still sort of ongoing.”