The promoter of the Australian Grand Prix admits an early track invasion before the end of Sunday’s race “could have had disastrous consequences” after sanctions from the FIA.
A number of fans climbed debris fences and through gaps in the track walls to gain access in order to run to the podium before the race had ended, with the cars still circulating behind the Safety Car and preparing to cross the line for the final time. Video footage showed fans on the pit straight filming the cars as they completed the race.
Nico Hulkenberg then stopped on track after the checkered flag and fans were able to approach his car, that wasn’t safe to be touched, leading to the Australian Grand Prix Corporation (AGPC) being summoned to the stewards.
“A large group of spectators managed to break the security lines and accessed the track while the race was still ongoing,” the stewards stated. “The security measures and the protocols which were expected to be in place for the event were not enforced resulting in an unsafe environment for the spectators, drivers and race officials.
“Furthermore, spectators were also able to reach Car No. 27, which was parked at exit of Turn 2 and which still had its light flashing red (i.e. the car was in an unsafe condition with possible electrical discharge). All of this presented significant danger to the spectators, race officials and the drivers.”
In the hearing, the race promoter “candidly admitted the failures in terms of the security protocols and safety measures … and agreed that this was an unacceptable situation that could have had disastrous consequences”.
The stewards demanded the AGPC “urgently present a remediation plan”, with the promoter vowing to carry out a comprehensive review of the failings – including consultations with F1, the FIA and local police – and asked to be given until 30 June 2023 to do so. Given the severity of the safety breach, the stewards have requested the FIA assess whether the plan is an adequate response or if any further steps are required.
The incident has also been referred to the World Motor Sport Council “for a further investigation to determine whether any additional steps need to be taken or penalties applied beyond the remediation plan presented by the promoter”.
A spectator also suffered a cut arm after being hit by debris from Kevin Magnussen’s crash late in the race, with the race’s CEO Andrew Westacott describing it as “a freak one-off” that carbon fibre flew 20 meters into the air, cleared a debris fence and fell on a fan’s arm.