Skip to main content

Greenpeace activists protest Shell plans as Sebastian Vettel wins at Spa

August 25, 2013 -- Updated 1624 GMT (0024 HKT)
Drivers perform a warm-up lap at the Spa-Francorchamps circuit as Greenpeace militants deploy a banner reading "ARCTIC OIL? SHELL NO!" Drivers perform a warm-up lap at the Spa-Francorchamps circuit as Greenpeace militants deploy a banner reading "ARCTIC OIL? SHELL NO!"
Spa F1 race targeted by activists
Spa F1 race targeted by activists
Spa F1 race targeted by activists
Spa F1 race targeted by activists
  • Sebastian Vettel's victory at F1's Belgian Grand Prix overshadowed by eco protests
  • Greenpeace activists protest against Artci drilling plans of race sponsor Shell
  • Paragliders fly a banner, while another is draped from grandstand before the start
  • Another banner is hung above the winner's podium at the end of the race

(CNN) -- Activists protesting against Arctic oil drilling infiltrated a Formula One race in Belgium Sunday, but the off-track incident did not stop Sebastian Vettel's march towards a fourth successive world title.

Two paragliders from the environmental group Greenpeace flew over the circuit at Spa-Francorchamps, displaying a banner criticizing the operations of Belgian Grand Prix sponsor Shell.

Then a second group of men managed to climb the main grandstand overlooking the starting grid and hung down a banner emblazoned "Arctic oil? Shell no!"

They then hung on ropes watching the race, which was effectively decided when Vettel overtook pole-sitter Lewis Hamilton on the first lap and motored clear in his Red Bull to win by almost 17 seconds from Fernando Alonso and extend his championship lead to 46 points.

However, the protests were not over -- the Greenpeace activists managed to unveil another banner above the winner's podium, and triumphantly posted the proof on the international group's Twitter page.

Watch adrenaline-filled tour of Spa track
Lotus hopeful on Raikkonen
Shell's arctic drilling underway

It posted a series of messages Sunday asking followers to demand that Shell backs down in its plans to drill in the Arctic, which it says will increase melting of the ice sheet and destabilize the global climate.

Greenpeace also reported that the grandstand climbers had been arrested.

Read: Hamilton counts Spa 'blessing'

Shell signed a multi-year sponsorship deal with the Belgian race in 2011, and has been involved in F1 since its inception in 1950 -- working mainly with Ferrari, the most successful team in the elite motorsport.

Its website says the Arctic "holds around 30% of the world's undiscovered natural gas and 13% of its yet-to-find oil. This amounts to around 400 billion barrels of oil equivalent, 10 times the total oil and gas produced to date in the North Sea.

"Developing the Arctic could be essential to securing energy supplies for the future, but it will mean balancing economic, environmental and social challenges."

In July, Greenpeace activists scaled one of Europe's tallest buildings -- London's Shard -- to protest Shell's Arctic drilling. The multinational company's main UK offices are near the Shard.

In February Shell announced it had suspended its Alaskan offshore drilling for the rest of 2013 but planned to resume "in the future." In previous months, two of its drilling vessels were damaged in the area and had to be towed to Asia for repairs.

Read: Is Greenpeace prank on Shell 'a scam?'

Meanwhile, Vettel shrugged off the protests to celebrate his fifth victory in 11 races this season, and his second at Spa following his 2011 success.

"It was a fantastic race for us from start to finish," the German told reporters. "It helped on the first lap getting a tow off Lewis through Eau Rouge. Once I passed him we could control the race.

"So a great result, with the car better than we expected going into the race which I really enjoyed a lot.

Shell weighs risks in Arctic drilling
Arctic oil vs. Alaska's natives
The race for Arctic oil in Alaska

"Fortunately there was no rain, so no need for any critical calls to be made, and a comfortable afternoon for us."

Vettel's teammate Mark Webber finished fifth, giving Red Bull a 77-point lead in the constructors' standings.

The veteran Australian will leave F1 at the end of this season to drive for Porche in sportscar racing, and he is expected to be replaced by compatriot Daniel Ricciardo from Red Bull's feeder team Toro Rosso.

Vettel appeared to confirm as much, saying: "It would make sense for Ricciardo as he has been at Red Bull for a long time. People will argue that he might not be ready, but was I ready when I joined?"

Read: F1's 'Mr. Consistency'

Alonso moved up to second in the drivers' standings above Lotus' Kimi Raikkonen, who did not finish for the first time in 39 races -- a run stretching back to 2009 when he was still at Ferrari.

The Finn retired due to a brake problem on the 26th lap, ending his record-breaking stretch of earning points in 27 races.

Two-time world champion Alonso was pleased with his efforts after starting from ninth on the grid.

"We had to recover some places because we were not okay yesterday," he said. "We were then okay from the start, but the race was a little boring once we had second place."

Hamilton, who won from pole in Hungary in the last race before the mid-season break in July, had to settle for third place.

"We had a tough race, these guys were faster than us, but I'm happy with the result," the 2008 world champion said.

"When we started we felt we didn't have as good a package as Red Bull and Ferrari. We'll try and do what we can in Monza, but from Singapore I hope we can be strong from there."

His teammate Nico Rosberg was fourth, giving second-placed Mercedes a 17-point advantage over nearest rival Ferrari.

Hamilton's former McLaren teammate Jenson Button was sixth -- the 2009 world champion won the race last year -- and Ferrari's Felipe Massa seventh.

Lotus' Romain Grosjean took eighth and Adrian Sutil was ninth in a consolation for Force India, whose other driver Paul Di Resta had to retire after being hit by Williams' Pastor Maldonado.

Ricciardo completed the top 10, giving the 24-year-old his fourth points-scoring race this season to be 14th overall in the standings.

Part of complete coverage on
March 15, 2014 -- Updated 0108 GMT (0908 HKT)
The big winners of this Formula One season could be road drivers rather than F1 racers, according to one former world champion.
March 14, 2014 -- Updated 1730 GMT (0130 HKT)
The Williams team welcomes the biggest rule changes to Formula One cars for a generation.
March 13, 2014 -- Updated 1916 GMT (0316 HKT)
Mercedes driver Lewis Hamilton sums up the dawn of a new Formula One era in three juicy words -- weird, mind-blowing and challenging.
March 12, 2014 -- Updated 1216 GMT (2016 HKT)
Formula One is taking another step in its techno evolution this season, which could be more unpredictable than it has been for a long time.
February 24, 2014 -- Updated 2255 GMT (0655 HKT)
Susie Wolff
Despite being a sport well into its seventh decade, only two women have ever driven in Formula 1 but Susie Wolff hopes to become the third.
February 24, 2014 -- Updated 1736 GMT (0136 HKT)
Jann Mardenborough on the similarities and differences between driving a race on a video game and driving a real F1 car.
February 22, 2014 -- Updated 1226 GMT (2026 HKT)
Russia's President Vladimir Putin watches the men's cross-country 4 x 10km relay event at the 2014 Sochi Winter Olympics on February 16, 2014. AFP PHOTO/ RIA-NOVOSTI/ POOL/ MIKHAIL KLIMENTYEV (Photo credit should read MIKHAIL KLIMENTYEV/AFP/Getty Images)
How Russian president Vladimir Putin helped turn a muddy hole in the ground into a $400 million futuristic grand prix track in Sochi.
February 21, 2014 -- Updated 0013 GMT (0813 HKT)
Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin (R) and Formula One racing director Bernie Ecclestone talk during a ceremony of signing of an agreement to bring Formula One racing to Sochi for a Grand Prix Russia to be held in 2014, the same year the Black Sea resort hosts the Winter Olympics in Sochi on October 14, 2010. Putin, whose backing was crucial in Sochi winning the right to host the Games, is due in the city on Thursday to sign an agreement for work to begin on the construction of a new 200 million dollar circuit. AFP PHOTO/ ALEXANDER NEMENOV (Photo credit should read ALEXANDER NEMENOV/AFP/Getty Images)
Vilified by the the international community for his government's attitude on gay rights, Russian president Vladimir Putin has found an ally.
January 22, 2014 -- Updated 1217 GMT (2017 HKT)
CNN's Rosie Tomkins speaks to Caterham F1 owner Tony Fernandes on the team's driver line-up for 2014.
March 13, 2014 -- Updated 1613 GMT (0013 HKT)
Red Bull's Sebastian Vettel is bidding for a fifth consecutive drivers' championship in 2014.
He is Formula One's undisputed No. 1, and next season Sebastian Vettel will have proof of that fact emblazoned on his Red Bull.
December 4, 2013 -- Updated 1633 GMT (0033 HKT)
A new era of F1 looms large on the horizon in 2014, but what do the new rules mean for how we watch the sport? Get up to speed here.
October 17, 2013 -- Updated 1056 GMT (1856 HKT)
Explore our interactive of one of F1's most important and complicated pieces of kit.