Campaigners scaled the main grandstand opposite the pits yesterday and abseiled down, revealing the words: "Arctic Oil? Shell no!"
Images of police using a platform attempting to reach the activists were not officially distributed, but they were widely shared on social media.
The race started shortly afterwards, on time.
Two paragliders also flew over the circuit trailing banners.
The oil giant cancelled this year's Arctic offshore drill season after numerous problems last year, but plans to send ships to oil prospect sites in the Chukchi and Beaufort seas, according to permit applications.
The US Geological Survey estimates the Arctic may hold 13 percent of the world's undiscovered oil and 30 percent of its gas.
"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," activist Tony Martin said in a Greenpeace statement.
Vanessa Hall, former Manchester City councillor who joined in the protest 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."