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LEWIS HAMILTON threw his support behind the climate activists who invaded the track at Sunday’s British Grand Prix by declaring: “Big up the protesters.”
Northamptonshire Police said seven people had been arrested after the invasion on the opening lap of the Silverstone contest, and they remain in police custody.
Five men, aged between 21 and 46, and two women, 20 and 44, were arrested after the terrifying track invasion on the opening lap at Silverstone.
The race had already been suspended following Zhou Guanyu’s high-speed crash, but a number of cars sped by as the quintet, understood to be from climate activist group Just Stop Oil, launched their protest.
The protesters stormed the Wellington Straight, the fastest point of the track, before sitting down. They were swiftly dragged away by marshals to huge cheers from the watching crowd.
In his post-race press conference, seven-time world champion Lewis Hamilton defended the activists, saying: “Big up those guys. Big up the protesters.
“I love that people are fighting for the planet and we need more people like them.”
Hamilton later moved to clarify his support, revealing he had not realised protesters had stormed the track when making his comments straight after the race.
“As we’ve seen today, this is a dangerous sport,” said Hamilton in a social media statement.
“I wasn’t aware of the protests today, and while I’ll always support those standing up for what they believe in, it must be done safely.
“Please don’t jump on to our race circuits to protest, we don’t want to put you in harm’s way.”
Hamilton’s remarks came after he crossed the line in third position to secure his second podium in as many races.
At one stage, the 37-year-old was a serious contender to win, on fresh rubber and behind only Charles Leclerc and Sainz at the restart with 10 laps to go, before losing out to Red Bull’s Sergio Perez.
Hamilton briefly moved up to second as Leclerc and Perez duelled for position, but his promotion lasted just five corners as the Ferrari and Red Bull charged back past.
Hamilton took Leclerc heading into Stowe with four laps remaining to seal the last spot on the podium, his 13th at Silverstone.
Ferrari driver Carlos Sainz, who won the race, said: “As soon as I came out of Turn Five I saw three guys running towards me.
“People have the opportunity to speak out because it is their right, but I don’t believe jumping onto a Formula One track is the best way to do it, and putting yourself at risk, and the other drivers.
“You have to be more careful because you could get killed and generate an accident.”
F1 bosses and Silverstone officials had been alerted to a protest plot in the days leading up to the race by Northamptonshire Police. It remains unclear how the protesters managed to breach security lines.
F1 CEO Stefano Domenicali said: “Everyone has the right to speak out on issues, but no-one has the right to put lives in danger.
“The actions of a small group of people were completely irresponsible and dangerous.
“We shouldn’t be complacent about the risk this posed to the safety of the drivers, marshals, fans and the individuals themselves.”
But four-time world champion Sebastian Vettel, an environmental campaigner, expressed his sympathy towards the activists.
He said: “These people don’t act out of frustration, but they are desperate, and I very much sympathise with their fears and their anxieties which I think everybody who understands the size of the problem that’s drifting towards us can understand.
“I also see the other side. Marshals are trying to stop people from doing these kind of things, and you are putting them, and the drivers, at risk.”
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