F1 commentator suspended for Stroll insult
By Mat Coch
Thursday 14th July, 2022 - 8:27pm
A Formula 1 commentator has been suspended after making derogatory remarks about Lance Stroll live on air.
Working for Belgian broadcaster RTBF Sport, Lionel Froissart described Stroll as “the autistic” during the live telecast of last Sunday’s Austrian Grand Prix.
Colleague Gaetan Vigneron moved quickly to shut down the conversation by saying “That’s too strong. You are going too far.”
However, Froissart was unrepentant adding, “honestly, this is the truth.”
RTBF Sport’s broadcast is carried as the official French-language feed for F1TV, which saw the remarks quickly reach social media.
The broadcaster subsequently issued a statement condemning the comments.
“RTBF strongly condemns the words used on Sunday, July 10, on air by its consultant Lionel Froissart during the Austrian Grand Prix,” it said.
“Associating autism with a driver’s way of communicating was misplaced and completely inconsistent with RTBF values.
“An internal investigation will be conducted, to hear all the involved persons.
“The goal is to understand in detail what could have led to this incident.
“Pending the results of this investigation, RTBF will no longer work with the consultant in question until further notice.”
Formula 1 as an industry has been increasingly clamping down on harassment, discrimination, and other forms of abuse.
Three-time world champion Nelson Piquet recently found himself in hot water for using a racial slur on a podcast last November, while in Austria the sport was united in condemning the abhorrent behaviour of some fans.
Programmes throughout the paddock and associated industries have been put in place in an effort to entice greater representation across all aspects of society; class, gender, and ethnicity.
Over the British Grand Prix weekend, Lewis Hamilton was asked about the progress the sport has made, and whether public statements were still enough.
“It’s now a knee-jerk reaction, really, from companies all around the world when something like this happens,” he said, specifically of the comments made by Piquet.
“They probably already have, and I’m not saying that we do, but I’m just saying, you’ve got to imagine that everyone’s PR agency have already a script ready for something like that, crisis management.
“It’s not enough,” he added.
“Now it’s about actual, real action. We’ve got to actually start acting.
“It’s not good enough just saying we are focused on it and just lip service. We really need to push for action,” he added.
Hamilton is the driving force behind the Hamilton Commission, which is looking to increase the representation of Black people within the motorsport industry, initially in the UK but with ambitions far broader than that.
He is also involved with Ignite, a joint initiative with Mercedes to also support greater diversity and inclusion in motorsport, which is working with Motorsport UK and the FIA Girls on Track UK programme.