F-1 Driver Hamilton Faces Abuse In Madrid

By BASN Wire Services
Updated: February 4, 2008

MADRID, Spain — Spain could lose both of its Formula One races following the racist taunting of driver Lewis Hamilton by spectators over the weekend.

Governing body FIA said Monday that the racial abuse aimed at Hamilton, F1’s first black driver, during testing at the Barcelona circuit could result in sanctions.

Under FIA’s statutes, punishment can include removing races from the Grand Prix calendar. The Spanish Grand Prix is set for April 27 at the Montmelo circuit in Barcelona, and the European GP at Valencia is Aug. 24.

“We are going to be writing to the national sporting authorities in Spain on what happened over the weekend and off of that report we will be deciding on what steps will be taken,” FIA said Monday.

“Formula One is a global, multicultural sport — it does not have scenes like this in its history and doesn’t want to see scenes like this.”

Spectators aimed abusive gestures and shouted racist abuse at the 23-year-old Hamilton — who finished second in the drivers’ championship last year in his rookie season — when he moved between the McLaren motorhome and the team’s garage at the Montmelo circuit on Saturday.

A group of spectators wore wigs, dark makeup and T-shirts with the words “Hamilton’s Family” scrawled on them.

The circuit said Monday it may take legal action against those spectators involved in the racist taunts.

“The truth is that I feel somewhat sad, I am in love with this country, and especially the city of Barcelona and this circuit, which is one of my three favorites,” Hamilton told sportlifepress.com. “The people in Spain have always been very warm with me, and even though I imagined what might happen it has not been pleasant.”

In Spain, Hamilton is widely blamed for Fernando Alonso’s failure to clinch a third straight championship last season after the Spaniard joined McLaren from Renault. Alonso, who has since rejoined Renault, finished third in the drivers’ standings.

“I would like them [the Spanish fans] to understand my position,” Hamilton said. “The only thing that I have done is to try to give the best of myself and try to win the championship, at no point have I tried to deliberately prejudice Fernando, but the fight has been very tough and my image in Spain has been severely damaged.”

McLaren sought to downplay the incidents.

“McLaren has raced and tested on Spanish circuits for many years, and everyone connected with the team regards Spain and the Spanish people with great affection, Lewis included,” the team said in a statement.

British Sports Minister Gerry Sutcliffe condemned the “sickening” incidents and said he would write to his Spanish counterpart to express concern.

“Racism should not be tolerated and this is not the first time British sportsmen have been racially abused in Spain,” he said. `This brings in question whether the Grand Prix should be held at this track.”

Sunday’s testing was incident free, with Hamilton stopping to sign autographs for fans and pose for pictures.