Spielberg Bei Knittelfeld, Austria: Mercedes team principal Toto Wolff has “questioned the attitude” of fans who rejoiced when Lewis Hamilton and George Russell both crashed at Austria’s Red Bull Ring circuit on Friday.
A loud cheer erupted when Hamilton hit a wall hard at turn seven in the top 10 qualifying shootout for Saturday’s Austrian Grand Prix sprint race.
Shortly after sections of the capacity crowd, largely made up of orange-clad Dutch supporters of world champion Max Verstappen, celebrated again when Russell also crashed.
“It’s not very sportsmanlike,” Wolff said at a press conference at the circuit owned by Verstappen’s Red Bull team on Saturday.
“Fans cheering when a driver crashes out, you should question the attitude and understanding of sport.”
Last weekend at the British Grand Prix at Silverstone, Verstappen was vociferously booed, behaviour which was criticised by Hamilton.
“Booing is not good either,” said Wolff.
“As teams we fight, but booing is a personal attack on a driver. Fans should put themselves in the same position.
“We want fans to be emotional and passionate but maybe when it becomes personal it shouldn’t happen.”
His Ferrari counterpart Mattia Binotto echoed those sentiments. “F1 is a sport with a lot of passion around it but you should not forget it should be enjoyable - booing is never great, never right.”
With both their cars badly battered and bruised Mercedes mechanics were working flat out to get them roadworthy in time for Saturday’s second practice session ahead of the sprint later in the day.
Hamilton’s car has been fitted with a spare chassis, one he has already used this season.
“The boys are doing such a great job,” said Hamilton in a video tweeted by Mercedes.
“It’s such a tall order, they’ve had to change the chassis. There couldn’t be more to change. I’m so proud of them, I wish I could help but I’d only get in the way!”
Both Hamilton and Russell were performing strongly in qualifying before their accidents in a further sign they have at last ironed out their talented but troublesome car’s problems.
“The car is still tricky to drive, but now we can fight for front positions,” said Wolff.
“I’m pleased to see they can attack, both drivers were up on time, but to have a faster car that ends up in a wall is okay compared to a car that is ‘steady eddy’.
“There was a lot of damage, the garage it looked like somebody had dropped a lego car on the floor.
“But I’m happy we’ve got a more competitive car. The drivers are enjoying driving it more.”