The 2013 Belgian Grand Prix wasn’t the most riveting of motor races and so will probably be best remembered for the attempts of Green Peace to shove their message onto the FOM world feed that would then give them, and their cause, worldwide exposure.
They began by climbing onto the main Grandstand and proceeding to abseil down in front of the stand and unfurl a banner reading “Arctic oil? Shell no!”. They were targeting F1 due to the Belgian Grand Prix’s title sponsor, Shell, leading the race to extract oil from the Arctic and damaging the landscape in the process. After their Grandstand stunt, one protester, reportedly, got to the grid but was tackled by a grid girl and hoisted off by security. Next, mechanical banners which had been hidden on the podium weeks beforehand, unfurled barriers bearing the words “SaveTheArctic.org” and accompanied by a subverted Shell logo. Their final dig was to somehow give security the slip and abseil from the roof of the Paddock Club and hang over the podium waving a banner.
Its only natural for huge sporting events to attract the likes of environmental and political campaigners for the same reason it attracts sponsors – the global audience is huge. Green Peace’s protest to Shell certainly wasn’t the only mingling that Formula One has had with politics.
For the last few years, the Bahrain Grand Prix has been engulfed in politics over an uprising in the Kingdom. During the so-called ‘Arab-Spring’ in 2011, Bahraini citizens rose up against their king. Due to violence and rioting on the streets, the 2011 event was initially postponed and finally cancelled. The 2012 and 2013 events both went ahead, but not without the reports of civilians being murdered by state forces on the streets. During the 2012 Grand Prix, for example, two people were reported dead in what anti-government rebels claimed was the doing of state-backed militia. In protest to the race, the streets were lined with graffiti begging F1 to “Dont race in our blood” and swapping the ‘F’ of the ‘F1’ logo with a gun. Force India team-members were caught up in a petrol bombing, although none were harmed, and a Channel Four crew who were covering the race were beaten and arrested. All-in-all, it raised incredible amounts of international attention for the rebels.
In 2004, Jaume Marquet i Cot (more commonly known as Jimmy Jump) invaded the track at the Spanish Grand Prix in Catalunya while the formation lap was underway. Jimmy Jump is known for invading major sporting and entertainment events with t-shirts bearing political messages. This time, he waved a banner on the grid before being rugby tackled by several marshalls and hauled away.
A year beforehand, the now defrocked Irish priest Niel Horan invaded the track and ran the wrong way up Hangar straight waving religious banners which stated “Read the bible” and “The Bible is always right”. Once again, a fast marshall tackled him and took him away before he could be hit by one of the cars.
Legendary five-time World Champion Juan Manuel Fangio was kidnapped by two members of Fidel Castro’s 26th of July Movement in 1958. His captors were kind to him, indeed allowing him to listen to the Cuban Grand Prix on radio and subsequently bringing him a television set so he could watch the reports of a crash at the race. The motives behind the kidnapping were to force race organisers to cancel the Grand Prix and further embarrass the Batista regime. When the race concluded, the captors released Fangio, who kept in friendly contact with them after he was released.