A Just Stop Oil activist who invaded the track during last year’s Silverstone Grand Prix has told jurors he studied the Formula 1 rulebook and videos of previous races to make the protest as safe as possible.
Louis McKechnie, who is on trial alongside five other protesters accused of posing a risk of serious harm to F1 drivers and marshals, said the group planned to “bait out” a red flag and then enter a section of track with clear sightlines.
McKechnie, 22, denies a charge of causing a public nuisance by sitting on Silverstone’s Wellington Straight as two F1 cars approached him at a reduced speed following a crash on the first bend.
Giving evidence at Northampton Crown Court on Wednesday, McKechnie said he felt completely safe before being dragged away by a marshal, and the protest had not been dangerous.
McKechnie, who grew up in Weymouth in Dorset but now lives in Manchester, told jurors he became involved in the environmental movement when he went on Extinction Rebellion marches while studying mechanical engineering at Bournemouth University.
He told the court on Wednesday: “I saw the politicians ignoring the scientists, which felt like a recipe for disaster.
“I felt Just Stop Oil addresses a key issue which needs to be solved immediately.
“Historically this (direct action) is what works. It worked for the suffragettes, it worked for Gandhi… we are using their tactics because nothing else works.”
Answering questions from defence barrister Robbie Stern, McKechnie said Just Stop Oil is calling for an end to new oil and gas licences and a “just transition to renewable energy”.
“Then we went there (Silverstone) in-person to see it and spent a day there.”
Describing “research” conducted before the protest, including viewing hundreds of hours of video on the internet and reading the Formula 1 rulebook, McKechnie added: “I watched every single race that’s been held at Silverstone over the last 20 years.
“I scoured the internet for every piece of information I could get about the track, the red flag system and also the drivers.
“The part of the track that we went on had a much lower proportion of crashes than other parts of the track.”
The Wellington Straight also had cameras, said McKechnie, who told the court: “We picked a part of the track which would give the cars plenty of time to pass where we were, before we went on.
“On the Wellington Straight the racing line was on the far side of the track.
“Basically we used that understanding to plan it (the protest) to be as safe as possible.
“As soon as there is an obstruction on the track, within about a second or two a red flag will come up.”
McKechnie said of his decision to leave the grass verge and sit down on the Wellington Straight: “The red flag was out. You could see it under the bridge.
“I knew I was safe and secure where I was on the track. I understood that where I was would be perfectly fine.”
Asked about the allegation that he had created a risk of serious harm, McKechnie said: “I think it’s completely false.
“Those drivers are the best drivers in the world. They would not even have flinched at something like this.”
During cross-examination, McKechnie was asked if he conceded the possibility that his actions had been dangerous.
The defendant replied: “No. I concede that it might have looked dangerous to someone who doesn’t know about this stuff in great detail.”
The trial continues.