Track breached by 'Just Stop Oil' protesters at British Grand Prix

Protestors jumped onto the track at the British Grand Prix at Silverstone after a crash at the start of the race. Photo by Clive Mason/Getty Images

SILVERSTONE -- A group of protesters breached the track on the opening lap of the British Grand Prix and were on the circuit when cars came past.

The protesters managed to get onto the circuit at the Wellington straight, which lies just after the first sequence of corners.

In a huge stroke of fortune, by the time the cars reached that part of the track they had started to slow dramatically for red flags which had been shown after a multi-car pileup at Turn 1.

A group known as 'Just Stop Oil' claimed to be behind it on Sunday. Seven protesters were arrested.

When told about the protest after the race in the press conference for the top three finishers Lewis Hamilton appeared to issue support, saying: "Big up to them".

He went on to explain: "I didn't know what the protestors were for, so I only just found out. I just said big up the protestors. I love that people are fighting for the planet. So we need more people like them."

Mercedes later clarified Hamilton had been "endorsing their right to protest but not the method that they chose, which compromised their safety and that of others".

One observer in the adjacent grandstand confirmed to ESPN at least one of the protesters was on the circuit when cars drove past.

The incident had eerie similarities to the 2003 British Grand Prix, when a radical Irish priest invaded the track and was almost hit by David Coulthard.

Northamptonshire Police chief inspector Tom Thompson said the protesters put lives at risk.

"I'm really disappointed that this group of people ignored our warnings prior to race day and made the incredibly dangerous decision to enter the track," he said. "We offered to facilitate a peaceful event at the circuit but they instead chose to put the lives of the drivers, marshals and volunteers at risk. It is incredibly disappointing that anyone would make the decision to do this.

"Thankfully we had plans in place for an eventuality such as this and the group were swiftly removed and arrested by our officers. All seven are currently in custody where their details are being ascertained."

The FIA released a short statement saying: "After the red flag, several people attempted to enter the track. These people were immediately removed and the matter is now being dealt with by the local authorities."

Ahead of the race, Northamptonshire Police said it had "credible" intelligence that environmental activists were planning a protest during the race.