Formula 1 To Restrict Celebrities Access To The Grid Following Neymar Jr. Incident

Is Neymar the next Salt Bae?

Formula 1 To Restrict Celebrities Access To The Grid Following Neymar Jr. Incident

Image: Getty

FIA president Mohammed Ben Sulayem has proposed restricting celebrity access to the Formula 1 grid amid repeated incidents of disruption during the Spanish Grand Prix and mounting concerns over driver safety.

We’ve all seen the images of celebrities enjoying uninhibited access to the world’s biggest sporting events. From Drake screaming at the NBA players courtside to Salt Bae snatching the FIFA World Cup from the hands of Argentina’s players in Qatar, A-Listers always seem to have the hottest tickets around.

And Formula 1 is no different. Esteemed guests and VIPs all flock to the F1 track on race day seeking the glitz and glamour that arises when the travelling circus rolls into town. While we’re left wondering why it couldn’t be us touring the otherwise prohibited paddock before the main event, the curtains are drawn and the carpet’s rolled out for a who’s who of who wants to be seen at the heart of the action.

Of course, with the success of Netflix’s all-access docuseries Formula 1: Drive to Survive, interest in the world’s iconic motorsport has never been higher – it’s why actors Margot Robbie and Ryan Gosling are set to film their latest movie against the backdrop of the 1962 Monaco Grand Prix. With each passing race, it seems more and more celebrities are positioned in the paddock, but new FIA clampdowns could have a serious effect on the F1 fanfare ahead of the big race.

“Protecting the health and well-being of everyone on the grid – guests, officials and teams – is the FIA’s priority.”

World Motor Sport Council statement

Neymar Jr. and the Spanish Grand Prix

Neymar Jr. shakes hands with FIA president Mohammed Ben Sulayem while on the grid ahead of the 2023 Spanish Grand Prix. Image: Autosport

Backtrack a few weeks to the Spanish Grand Prix and the case of Neymar Jr. The football star, who special guest of seven-time World Champion Lewis Hamilton, was invited to the tarmac ahead of the race in Barcelona. He’s been to more than a few F1 races before, so this was hardly a unique occurrence.

However, in a rather shocking lapse of judgement, Neymar – along with other guests and celebrities – was still occupying the grass strip of the main straight of the track once the formation lap got underway, presenting a serious safety concern as 20 F1 cars took to their positions before lights out.

“We must learn lessons from the incident at the Spanish Grand Prix.”

FIA president Mohammed Ben Sulayem

Of course, Neymar isn’t necessarily at fault for his positioning at the start of the race. After all, the safety of everyone on the grid, inclusive of drivers and their guests, is the responsibility of the FIA and the race day organisers – Neymar and his entourage should’ve been managed more effectively.

But it does raise serious concerns about access granted to celebrities who may not be informed of safety regulations around in a potentially dangerous environment, and it’s certainly not the first time that celebrities have caused disruptions during their cameo appearances.

Fans invade the Australian Grand Prix

This isn’t the only dangerous moment we’ve seen in F1 this year.

Earlier this year, fans managed to break through security barriers and force their way onto the track during the Australian Grand Prix, provoking an immediate response for race organisers to implement a “remediation strategy” to prevent further safety concerns from happening again.

WATCH the moment fans invaded Albert Park during the 2023 Australian Grand Prix below.

Formula 1 has previously had run-ins with celebrity guests

Back in 2021, F1 announced that celebrity bodyguards were no longer permitted on the track before the race, following an incident with rapper Megan Thee Stallion and Sky Sports journalist Martin Brundle.

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Brundle was occupying his usual role at the Circuit of the Americas and sought out Megan Thee Stallion for a “rap” ahead of the race and it didn’t go down too well with one of her bodyguards, who “biffed” the former racing driver for getting too close.

Whilst it would be an extreme – and potentially detrimental – measure to ban celebrity guests altogether, it’s clear that with an increased interest in Formula 1, serious conversations need to be had surrounding race day regulation to ensure the safety of celebrities, drivers and attendees all hoping to enjoy the world-class racing on display.