Social media platforms must do more to tackle F1 trolls

Red Bull and its chief strategy engineer Hannah Schmitz found themselves in the firing line of some fans after last weekend’s Zandvoort race, amid wild conspiracy theories surrounding Yuki Tsunoda’s retirement from the race.

The Japanese’s late race stoppage on track, and the manner in which he returned to the pits and then back onto the track before finally stopping for good and putting out a VSC, led to claims that he had deliberately tried to help AlphaTauri’s sister team Red Bull.

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The conspiracies, and especially the nature of some of the online abuse directed against Schmitz, prompted AlphaTauri to issue a forcefully worded statement earlier this week.

“Such hateful behavior cannot be tolerated, and harboring allegations of foul play is unacceptable, untrue and completely disrespectful to Hannah and us,” the statement said.

Tsunoda also criticized the conspiracy theorists, suggesting that they get an MRI scan “and see what’s going on.”

Verstappen has echoed AlphaTauri’s attitude, saying it was “ridiculous” how some fans had behaved after the race.

“It’s not correct,” he said ahead of the Italian Grand Prix.

“I’m happy [AlphaTauri] bring that statement out, as we’ve done with other things to do things.

“But in the end, these things shouldn’t even happen.

Yuki Tsunoda, AlphaTauri AT03

Photo by: Red Bull Content Pool

“First of all, it’s ridiculous to think about things like this. Why would you think such a thing is possible in this sport?

“And then those individuals start to hate it. It’s a mystery to me how anyone could do that.”

Verstappen believed that social media platforms had a responsibility to do more to get rid of individuals who acted inappropriately.

“That’s the problem if you leave everything open on social media, anyone can say what they want,” he explained.

“I think hate needs to be tackled much more and better. These companies put a little emphasis on it, but it’s not enough.

“You can create other types of accounts and just keep going. Even if they block your IP address, people are smart enough to find another way. They should definitely come up with another solution for that.

“Social media is growing and in general it’s a great thing and a great tool to have, but some parts of it are pretty negative.”

Verstappen said he had complete confidence in Schmitz, who will be absent from this weekend’s Italian Grand Prix as part of her planned rotation with race strategy head Will Courtenay.

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When asked if he has spoken to her about the situation, Verstappen said: “Hannah is a strong person and she knows what she is doing. We don’t have to talk one on one for that.

“Hannah won’t be here this weekend, but if I see her, we might mention it. But we shouldn’t pay too much attention to it either, because these people don’t deserve it.”