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Activist hijacks Belgian GP podium

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Screen Shot 2013-08-26 at 11.05.36Activist hijacks Belgian GP podium just metres away from celebrating Vettel, Alonso and Hamilton on day of protests at F1 race

By Phil Duncan and Joe Strange

PUBLISHED: 13:55, 25 August 2013 | UPDATED: 16:14, 25 August 2013

A Greenpeace activist managed to scale the Belgian Grand Prix podium as Sebastian Vettel was celebrating his fifth victory of the Formula One season.

The female, protesting against race sponsor Shell and their Arctic oil programme, managed to unfurl a banner which read ‘Congratulations! Now help us save the Arctic!’ while abseiling above the podium celebrations.

Vettel, Fernando Alonso and Britain’s Lewis Hamilton were seemingly oblivious to the huge security lapse as the crowd jeered the activist later named as Julia Ritschard.

A second protestor was stopped from scaling the podium by security while two remote-controlled banners unfurled themselves at the foot of the podium as the German national anthem played out to mark Vettel’s victory.

The podium protests were among a number stunts to hit round 11 of the Formula One championship.

Earlier, activists from the Belgian branch of the international activist network, scaled the roof of the grandstand opposite the pits to display a 20-metre-long banner which read: ARCTIC OIL? SHELL NO!

This followed two paragliders flying over the circuit before the start of Sunday’s race, trailing another banner criticising Shell’s activities around the North Pole.

Speaking before climbing the roof to protest, Tony Martin from Brussels said: ‘This Grand Prix is Shell’s biggest day of the year.

‘They’ve spent millions of Euros plastering their logo everywhere and entertaining scores of VIP guests, but the one thing they don’t want to talk about is their plan for Arctic oil drilling.

‘That’s why we’re here, to let the public and Formula One fans know what this company is really up to.’

After investing $5bn in its Arctic programme, Shell has been forced to abandon plans to drill for oil off the coast of Alaska after experiencing problems including a grounded rig and a fire on a drill ship.

But, according to Greenpeace, the oil giants have now agreed a deal with Russian state-owned company Gazprom to drill in the Russian Arctic.

The U.S. Geological Survey estimates the Arctic may hold 13 percent of the world’s undiscovered oil and 30 percent of its gas.

Vanessa Hall, a former councillor on Manchester City Council, is also protesting on the roof of the grandstand. She said: ‘This sport is all about cutting edge developments in engineering and safety, but Shell’s Arctic drilling programme relies on technology and equipment that was developed before today’s drivers were even born.

‘And of course the only reason Shell can drill there at all is because climate change is melting the Arctic ice cap, and they’re going in to drill for more of the stuff that caused the melt in the first place – it’s madness.’

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