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Thank God for Greenpeace! Protesters brighten up Belgian borefest

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A Greenpeace activist stages a protest as a police helicopter flies next to him prior to the start of the Belgium …

Sunday's Belgian Grand Prix was one of the dullest Formula One races in recent history, with Sebastian Vettel grabbing the lead less than halfway through the first lap and hanging on thereafter for the simplest of wins.

With none of the forecast rain coming, and no big crashes on a track famous for catching drivers out on its succession of sweeping, flat-out bends, there was precious little entertainment on offer for fans.

So thank goodness, then, for a series of ingenious protests from environmental pressure group Greenpeace.

Before the race, protesters parachuted over the circuit with a banner slamming oil company Shell for drilling around the North Pole.

Yes, parachutes. But putting aside the hypocrisy of chartering an entirely unnecessary plane to make an environmental protest, it was pretty eye-catching stuff.

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Activists then scaled the main grandstand opposite the pits to unfurl another huge banner criticising race sponsor Shell. Speaking before his ascent, Tony Martin of 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.”

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Another individual, Julia Ritschard, climbed above the podium as Vettel celebrated his fifth win of the season. She unveiled a banner which read ‘Congratulations! Now help us save the Arctic!’ to cheers and boos from the crowd.

"We are a bit confused here because the crowd are booing and cheering and I'm not sure why," Vettel told the crowd after spraying the champagne.

A second protester was prevented from following suit while two other banners unfurled by themselves at the foot of the podium during the German national anthem.

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Greenpeace international executive director Kumi Naidoo later stated: "I was a fan of grand prix racing when I was growing up, but I am not a fan of what Shell is doing in the Arctic.

"Right now we are in the race of our lives against Shell, a company that sees the melting of the Arctic as a business opportunity, rather than a warning. Every driver and F1 fan knows that oil on the tracks spells disaster; an oil spill in the Arctic would be catastrophic.

"We hope that when they've heard about what Shell is up to they'll join the almost four-million-strong movement to save the Arctic."

Shell abandoned plans to drill for oil off the coast of Alaska after practical problems. Greenpeace claim that the company has agreed a deal with Russian state-owned company Gazprom to drill in the Russian Arctic.

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