Lewis Hamilton urges protesters to avoid track at British GP

SILVERSTONE, Great Britain -- Lewis Hamilton has said he would welcome a peaceful Just Stop Oil protest at this weekend's British Grand Prix, but has joined his fellow drivers in urging activists not to invade the track.

Last year, Just Stop Oil protesters ran onto the circuit during the opening lap of the race, which by chance had already been suspended due to an unrelated accident at the first corner.

Three of the six protesters were given suspended prison sentences while the other three were given 12-month community orders.

A spate of Just Stop Oil protests at other sporting events in the UK this summer, including a pitch invasion at cricket's Ashes Series two weeks ago and a court invasion at Wimbledon earlier this week, has led to concerns there could be a repeat at the British Grand Prix.

With an attendance of 480,000 expected over the three days of the British Grand Prix, the local Northamptonshire Police service is upping security with plain clothed police officers, search teams, armed officers and live facial recognition technology around the circuit.

"The technology works by scanning faces with a camera to match biometrics against those held on a watchlist," a police statement said. "This list is generated by the police and focuses on those who pose the greatest risk of danger to the wider public in attendance."

Hamilton said he "supported peaceful protests", but hopes the extra measures put in place will prevent activists invading the track.

"We are hoping that we learned a lot from last year's experience, and it won't happen this weekend," he said. "I believe we have 100 more marshals, which are here to be supportive and make sure it doesn't happen as well.

"From my perspective and my team's, we are very focused on sustainability, we believe in what people are fighting for and we are making those changes as a sport.

"But safety is key. We don't want to be put in harm's way and we don't want to put anyone else in harm's way.

"If there was to be a protest, I hope that it is not on track."

Williams driver Alex Albon has said the likelihood of a protest means F1's drivers must prepare for the worst this weekend.

"There is possibly quite a high chance of something happening this weekend," he said. "In the sport that we do that is a concern.

"A pitch invasion is one thing, but with cars? It is dangerous. We have to be prepared for it."

However, Hamilton's Mercedes teammate, George Russell, who is also the director of the Grand Prix Drivers Association, believes the added security precautions will make a difference.

"We put our trust in F1, the FIA and Silverstone, the marshals, to stop people running onto the track," Russell said. "I feel that we're all open and free to cast our views and to do it on track is irresponsible and dangerous for the protestors but also the drivers.

"I'd also encourage these protesters to look at the good that F1 is doing from a sustainability perspective. We are going to 100% sustainable fuels in the future.

"We've done a huge push on the sustainability front and I think it would be fair for them to have a look at what we're doing and even have open conversations with us before recklessly running onto a circuit when we're driving past at 200mph."