Australian Grand Prix organizers have launched an investigation to determine how a group of fans managed to break through security and get dangerously close to Formula One cars before the chaotic race that featured three red flags had ended. (More Motorsport News)
Australian Grand Prix Corp. chief executive Andrew Westacott on Monday said the incursion onto the Albert Park circuit before the checkered flag could have resulted in serious injuries.
“There's a controlled allowance of people to come onto the track after the race has concluded and after the safety car passes,” Westacott told the Australian Broadcasting Corp. “Spectators had broken one of the lines, we don't know how that's occurred just yet.
“Motorsport is dangerous ... it could have been horrific.”
Only 12 of the 20 starters finished the race, with Red Bull's Max Verstappen winning his first Australian GP title after a late rolling start behind a safety car.
An event record 444,631 spectators attended the Australian GP over four days, including 131,124 on Sunday. Vision of fans climbing high on safety fences and squeezing through a gap in the barricades to get onto the track emerged in the aftermath of the race.
Race promotors faced the stewards on Sunday night and admitted to a charge of failing to take adequate safety and security measures.
“All of this presented significant danger to the spectators; race officials and the drivers,” stewards said in a statement.
The Australian Grand Prix Corp. pledged to undertake comprehensive reviews, including with Victoria state police, and report back to FIA, the sport's world governing body, by June 30. The incident was also referred to the FIA World Motor Sports Council for further investigation to determine what penalties will apply.
“We've got a lot of CCTV and we've got a huge amount of footage we're going to have to pour through over the next couple of weeks," Westacott said. "Nobody does anything malicious at motorsport, it's an unbelievably well-behaved crowd, but they, I think, had a degree of confusion. We don't know how they got into the area without the right level of authority.”
Westacott described it as an “uncontrolled ingress of people” and said they breached a “very robust protocol.”
He said he hoped the track incursion didn't lead to a ban on fans being allowed onto the track, in a controlled manner, after future races are completed.