Lewis Hamilton fans ‘racist’ (updated)

Posted on | Author Keith Collantine

Lewis Hamilton, McLaren-Mercedes, Barcelona, 2007, 2Spanish motor sport federation head Carlos Gracia had this to say about the popularity of Lewis Hamilton among British F1 fans, speaking in Spanish newspaper El Publico:

It is perfectly normal for a British team and British fans wanting to succeed in formula one but it is ironic that the racists in England are having to rely on a coloured pilot.

Racism is an incendiary topic in all walks of life, and especially so in Spanish sport which has seen some high-profile accusations of racist behaviour in football.

Gracia later distanced himself from the comments, saying:

What I meant was that England have been looking for a Formula One idol for many years and no matter who he was they were going to give him all their support.

Even so, I fail to see what Hamilton’s ethnicity has to do with whether British people support him or not. On the face of it Gracia’s remarks say more about his own attitude towards race than those of Britons.

As ever, it’s worth noting that this is how a Spanish representative is being reported in British newspapers, and I’d be particularly interested to hear what any Spanish readers of this blog have to say about Gracia’s remarks. Has he been misquoted or misunderstood?

Most interestingly, it seems Carlos Gracia will be a guest of McLaren over the weekend as the team seeks to disprove innuendo that the team is giving preferential treatment to Lewis Hamilton. I foresee some awkward moments over dinner…

Update: Gracia has now issued an even stronger denial of the comments, saying:

I’m very surprised by what was published and lament the interpretation which has been put on the words. They were taken out of context and wrongly interpreted.

I want to make it clear that I do not believe in stereotyping any nationality. There was no racist element to what I said and I am a great admirer of England. I did not say that.

The accusations that have emerged go against the very principles I’ve defended in 23 years at the head of the Spanish Federation.

What I meant was that England have been looking for a Formula One idol for many years and no matter who he was they were going to give him all their support.

I have always had great respect for Hamilton as a driver and that respect remains even though he can take the title away from Alonso.

Update 2: There are reports that the FIA and the Spanish Superior Council of Sport are investigating Gracia’s remarks (links below).

Hamilton, meanwhile, has made some revealing comments to Black History Month magazine. The Briton has seldom commented about his ethnicity since arriving in F1. Here’s what he had to say:

Outside of Formula One my heroes are foremost my father, then Nelson Mandela and Martin Luther King.

Being black is not a negative. It’s a positive, if anything, because I’m different. In the future it can open doors to different cultures and that is what motor sport is trying to do anyway.

[Winning the championship] will show that not only white people can do it, but also black people, Indians, Japanese and Chinese. It will be good to mean something.

Photo: DaimlerChrysler

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41 comments on “Lewis Hamilton fans ‘racist’ (updated)”

  1. Gracia is the racist, going on that first comment. He still only sees colour. Hamilton was born in Britain (England, if you want to be specific). The colour of his skin is irrelevant. Gracia has a cheek to call other people racist.

  2. One can only hope that his comments have been mis-translated, however as you say, if true, it clearly shows his own attitudes to race.

    I presume Gracia is not going to be the official overseeing McLaren at the weekend? It would seem a little strange to have someone who clearly has a vested interest in Alonso winning the championship to be deciding what is fair?

  3. I don’t really understand what he’s getting at in his latest, strongest rebuttal:

    “What I meant was that England have been looking for a Formula One idol for many years and no matter who he was they were going to give him all their support.”

    I don’t really see how that makes his comments any better. It still sounds like race is the underlying issue, and he makes it sound (“no matter who he was”!) that Lewis is less deserving of English/British support because he’s less English/British than, say, Damon Hill. Which is nonsense.

    He’s just digging himself an ever deeper hole, in my view.

  4. no one even could ever dispute that hamilton – has been a breath of fresh air in F1 – he is young colored man and is a positive role model for all young people who are short of them at this time and I dont think a small minded – if correct ? racist remark can take from what he has given to our sport this year

  5. I agree with Robert here, I believe, whoever misquoted him, just only made his remarks clearer. And honestly, he is better off being misquoted, than sticking to his original line (second quote). What exactly does he mean by “whoever he was”?

    I have said it in the past, and perhaps its not exhibited on F1FANATIC, but the opinion i’ve formed. from my visits to other sites and user comments I have viewed, the main reason for the dislike of Hamilton is most likely because of his skin color. I have never seen so much hatred being directed towards a driver even just after his first race. Sites like AUTOSPORT and PLANET-F1 have allowed their forums to be turned into the gutter.

    Luckily much maturity is displayed over here, even from those who are Alonso supporters, afterall its just a sport, with the drivers competing for themselves, its not a national sport.

  6. Oliver, suggesting that Hamilton is disliked because of his skin colour is absurd.

    He is not the first, and will no doubt not be the last non-white F1 driver. Take Narain Karthikeyan for example – he was the first Asian F1 driver, and yet little or no fuss was made about him despite him being a very talented driver.

    Just as you have claimed that dislik of Hamilton is because of racism, one could claim that the ignoring of Narain’s ability is also due to racism. Both claims are equally absurd, and there are many other similarly ridiculous ones.

    In short, Hamilton is disliked because he is an over-rated, arrogant, smug person with no respect for his betters and has nothing to do with the colour of his skin.

  7. Where is Johnny Cochron when you need him?
    Personally, I don’t care for what goes on in the gutter press of any nation. Without all that nonsense, I feel I can look at the sport without any kind of predjudice. They are are all good racing drivers, only Alonso is on the way to being a great having been world champion twice.

  8. If his comments were “taken out of context and wrongly interpreted” as he says, wouldn’t the easy way to get out of this be giving us that context? His denial doesn’t say anything about why the word racist was in the comment in the first place, just that “I’m a nice guy, really”.

  9. I also think that is absurd to dislike Hamilton because of his skin colour, but i admit that there are few who, unfortunately, do just that.
    I believe that he is disliked mostly because of the hype produced by the media.

    I think that Garcia tried to do mind games with Hamilton and his fans. But that is just another cheap shot from the spanish side and that is sad. I still hope that Raikkonen wins it!

  10. Hi, I am spanish and it is a shame for me to hear something like this from Mr. Gracia. It is a shame for us to have him as the president of our federation, and not only because of his last comment, that is, as all of you say, racist.

    Excuse me my english. I am a reader of your fantastic blog but I have not participated before. Keep going!

    Expecting for the weekend!!!

  11. Rohan:

    I take it, you are either new to F1 or cannot see the faces of the drivers underneath their helmets. I believe till date, Japan remains a nation from asia, so for u to say Narain is the first asian driver is laughable. Already we have Takuma Sato, Yuri Ide, Sakon Yamamoto, and even these three who have driven in F1 only recently, are by no means the first Asian drivers.

    “In short, Hamilton is disliked because he is an over-rated, arrogant, smug person with no respect for his betters and has nothing to do with the colour of his skin”

    How did u come about that summation? I assume you are also an expert in driver ability, that you conclude he is overated. If you had said he was over sensationalized, I will agree very much with you, but surely being overated is no fault of his, and not reason enough to be disliked. Here is a young man in his first few races, who has matched his two time world champion in the same car, and being a match to Kimi, in the better car.

    You say he is arrogant, do u arrive at that conclusion, because he walks upright, and has the confidence to face the challenge from his fellow drivers? Do you for one moment think Kimi isnt arrogant? I believe you are simply mistaking self confidence for arrogance.
    You do not state how one shows respect for ones “betters”. Win or lose, he shakes hands with his fellow competitors, or might there be a another hidden form of respect I know not of?

    Rohan, most of your arguments leaves me no option than to suggest, your conclusion is not entirely of your own making, but has been acquired.

    And on Narain’s ability, I believe there is a team now on he grid, with a substantial Indian backing. The owner has not shielded his desire to see an Indian born driver in the team. If Narain has the required skill to be considered a top line driver, and I not talking just of speed, but consistency of delievery, then I have no doubt, he will be employed as a driver by this team.

    Finally, concerning my earlier color of skin remark, I do not for one moment suggest that all anti Hamiton brigage are racists, and I remember using the words, most. Nevertheless an educated individual can read between the lines and detect the venomous undertones. And as I also pointed out, its based on actual user comments and I listed out the forums those comments originated. Because, I am yet to find a single substantial reason being given for his dislike, apart from say he is getting too much airtime, and those who dislike him for that, have always stated so, even on this forum. I admit, that has also irritated me.

    But I ask, have you formed your judgement based on a personal experience with Hamilton? Things he has said personally? Or are your opinions based on things you have read? twists by the press of innocent comments he may have made? Hamilton did not beg the press for the attention he is receiving, and it is not his fault if the media gravitates in his direction.

  12. It’s very sad that we even have to discuss a topic that has anything to do with a color of a skin. I for some reason thought we are in 21st century already …

    Whether Mr Garcia said what he meant or meant what he said that I can’t judge. The media are masters in distorting the facts. But if his denial was quoted correctly, than I have to agree with some guys above – he did not do himself any favours, only dugg himself deeper into the … mudd. Reminds me of certain football coach from the same country and his faux pas with Theirry Henry…

  13. Oliver, firstly, while Japan is clearly a part of Asia, people from Japan, China etc are generally referred to as Oriental, while people from India, Pakistan etc are “Asian”. Of course one can describe anyone who comes from a country in Asia as Asian, but I was using the term in th first context.

    Secondly, I am most certainly not a newcomer to F1, having missed only one race since the start of the 1993 season.

    Thirdly, Hamilton has shown himself to be arrogant/smug etc in numerous TV interviews in which thre is no opportunity for the media to distort Hamilton’s words. I agree with you that there is a fine line between arrogance and extreme self-confidence, with the distinction being that it is only self confidence if you have the ability to back it up. I, and a number of other people, hold the opinion that Hamilton does not have the ability to back up his “boastings” and, as such, is arrogant.

    Please note that I am not saying that Hamilton is a rubbish driver – he is certainly among the top 7 or 8 drivers currently on the F1 grid in terms of ability, but he is not the best as he (and his entourage) claim to be. Hs over-rating is every much his fault as well – he has done nothing to prevent the media or anyone else proclaiming him as the greatest when it would be quite easy to do so. In fact, I seem to remember Hamilton himself claiming that he is on a par with Schumacher and Senna – but wait, that’s not arrogance is it?

    Finally, did Hamilton apologise for calling te drivers behind him on the grid at Monaco “monkeys”? Has he apologised for claiming that Webber was at fault for the accident with Vettel when in fact almost all observers know it was at least half Hamilton’s fault? Has he said sorry for demanding that the FIA hold an investigation into McLaren’s team orders in Monaco? If so, they certainly haven’t been broadcast anywhere, so it is reasonable to assume that he hasn’t. Thus, Hamilton is showing a clear lack of respect for his fellow drivers. I just hope that he gets his comeuppance in Brazil.

  14. Regarding an earlier comment, I understand Gracia is not the delegate appointed by the FIA to observe McLaren this weekend, that will be someone else.

  15. Does anyone have the original spanish version of the article? I found the original newspaper’s website but I couldn’t find the article that everyone is refering to. I believe the website is http://www.publico.es/ and according to the first article I read they said the quote appeared in the 10/16/2007 (16/10/2007 in Europe, I guess) edition. Can anyone else find it? I don’t speak Spanish beyond “Donde esta el bano” but my sister is a professional translator and I have two native spanish speakers as brothers-in-law. I would love to see the original spanish and see what they think of the translation.

  16. John,

    It does seem an interview by phone, and the sound is not very good. The translation could be so “… so racists as they are in England, that they have to support a coloured pilot…”.
    I do think it is an unfair accusation, I think you are so racists as we are in Spain. I do find it is stupid to say a country is more than other.
    There is words said by a spaniard football coach, and I can remember words said by the Duke of Edimburgh. Unfortunately, still there is racism in our societies, that is the truth, but I think this is just past time dirtying the present time, not the future.

  17. @Rohan,

    You are comments are purely based on your feelings. So, please don’t try to rationalize for others.

    The paragraph below doesn’t justify anything:
    “Thirdly, Hamilton has shown himself to be arrogant/smug etc in numerous TV interviews in which thre is no opportunity for the media to distort Hamilton’s words. I agree with you that there is a fine line between arrogance and extreme self-confidence, with the distinction being that it is only self confidence if you have the ability to back it up. I, and a number of other people, hold the opinion that Hamilton does not have the ability to back up his “boastings” and, as such, is arrogant.”

    @ Rohan,

    Don’t make statements like this, unless you can back up with a link!

    “In fact, I seem to remember Hamilton himself claiming that he is on a par with Schumacher and Senna – but wait, that’s not arrogance is it?”

    And you talk about Hamilton being able to backup his words.

    Cheers.

  18. Rohan:

    Hamilton has always apologised to the team when he has not behaved correctly. Regarding the Monaco incident, I am more of the view, that it was Ron Dennis’ comments that brought about the investigation. As for the Webber incident, our opinions differ.
    As for him rendering apologies for someone else calling him great, I can only ask if you are joking? Do you for one moment believe he knows all that is being said about him.?

    I sincerly hope you are not one of those individuals who must get an apology before they can get on with their lives. Perhaps, Hamilton should even apologize for being born, afterall he is taking up one more space that could have gone to someone else more deserving.

  19. @Rohan,

    “Finally, did Hamilton apologise for calling te drivers behind him on the grid at Monaco “monkeys”? Has he apologised for claiming that Webber was at fault for the accident with Vettel when in fact almost all observers know it was at least half Hamilton’s fault? Has he said sorry for demanding that the FIA hold an investigation into McLaren’s team orders in Monaco? If so, they certainly haven’t been broadcast anywhere, so it is reasonable to assume that he hasn’t. Thus, Hamilton is showing a clear lack of respect for his fellow drivers. I just hope that he gets his comeuppance in Brazil.”

    Please provide links for all the above. Just because you tend to believe that it was Hamilton’s error, doesn’t mean that it is his. Same is true the other way around for others.

    Why should anyone be sorry for any of the above things? Disobeying team orders is like you not listening to your mother. The government doesn’t need to interfere in family matters. However, what Alonso did in return was a complete mess. He could have simply asked the team to not let him go first at the next race or whatever. Instead he chose to play foul.

    Please keep your feelings for yourself.. and stop trying to rationalize things!! You are absolutely prejudiced against Hamilton as everyone else you think is prejudiced otherwise.

    Regarding, whatever happens at Brazil, I am sure you won’t be able to take it in spirit. If Hamilton crashes, you will be happy. But, if he wins the title, you won’t be able to take it in the same light that “You just got your comeuppance with F1 and your whining.”

    So.. take it easy.. and enjoy the weekend for what it has in store for all!

  20. Macademia nut,

    I can provide you links about Rohan says, from all the corners of the world, from Canada to Philippines, from Argentina to Russia, just say me the chosen language.

  21. the guy is taking the mick!! (i could of used worse words than that!)

    hamilton is a brit and a fantastic F1 driver… The colour of his skin has nothing to do with it.

    I’m a white man and i have never been a racist.

  22. Hamilton said he was on par with senna and schumacher?

    I find that hard to believe, if he says this explicitly to the media then I’m not a fan anymore. Provide links and convert me…!

  23. well could ollie and rohan – just chill and get off this blame and conceit thing and let the drivers we all pay for in one way and another to settle it on sunday – or maybe we will have another fresh conspiracy before then – they do like too see theirselves in print ps poss same here – only shorter postings

  24. When is the last time we were so invested in the drivers championship? this has been a great year in grand prix! we all have our favorites on the grid, and are going to have to agree to disagree on our views of the mens personalities & character. (i know, as i admit to being biased towards kimi & lew, and can’t bear the sight of FA!). really, we’re begining to sound like football fans, i hope not to see the firms & ultras at interlagos on sunday! looking forward to it!

  25. Hamilton is a fantastic driver but,I don’t like him because he is a spoiled brat.Ron has handed him everything,I just can’t respect a driver who has not paid his dues.

    The remarks that were made by Gracia are racist though (” having to rely on a coloured pilot !!” )and I hate to see that,there is no room for that in an International sport – or anywhere else for that matter.

  26. Not only is there no room for this in racing, there is no room for a racist journalist covering this sport. If you don’t like him then don’t like him his color should have nothing to do with it. This writer has me very angry, I thought we (the human race) was beyond this sort of bull****. I have always felt that the best man for the job. In todays society we have enough to worry about besides the color of a mans skin.

  27. oh,i was so hoping this was the one thing that wouldn’t rear it’s ugly little head this season.

    just an observation: racism exists in all sorts of interesting and subterranean forms most of which we don’t even realize and never think ourselves guilty of. bigotry is the word we are all looking for but honestly they should be interchangeable terms. tribalistic bigotry, gender bigotry, race bigotry, relious bigotry. admit it’s there, admit we’re all guilty and we all move on.

    f1, being an international sport, one would sort of hope that ethnicity wouldn’t be noteworthy in the face of talent. that a spaniard said otherwise (& in a land of politicians who’s stupid soundbites result in weeks of mea culpa’s and lame re-spin, i know where his second statement comes from)is interesting because obviously there’s no preference there, right? bottom line, the guy said something stupid, taking a jab at the uk’s supposed ethnic biogotry and ignoring spain’s own.

    what’s going to happen when saudi arabia or bahrain run a driver?

  28. This Garcia man is clearly an idiot. F1 doesn’t need people like him, but it was only a matter of time before someone made an issue out of Hamilton being black, despite the fact that he hasn’t used his skin colour to make himself seem more like a victim (which a lot of other people would have done).
    Also, “the racists in England”? Surely the game the England football team played in Spain a few years ago shows the great number of racists in Spain, coupled with Spanish coach Luis Aragones’s remarks about Thierry Henry?

  29. Regarding the Hamilton-Senna thing, closest I found:

    “Driving in the wet, leading and doing a last lap thinking of some of the races that Senna was in and Prost – it sort of made me feel that I’m on my way to achieving something similar to them.”

    http://www.autosport.com/news/report.php/id/62897

    Frank Williams on the other hand had this to say about Lewis:

    “He is very special. Once every 10 years they come along, like Ayrton and Michael. It is a very rare event and a fantastic event and a story for Formula One,”

    http://www.autosport.com/news/report.php/id/63055

  30. Yes it’s true. I am an Alonso fan, but every time I join up a message board for Alonso supporters, all I see is a bunch of racist remarks about Hamilton

  31. Look we all have so many opinions about the sport we love. EVERYONE MUST FILL OUT THE SURVEY ON pitpass.com. we can have our say. The sport is going in a direction that we all can say is not a good one. I think that we as fans owe it to fill out the survey. It only takes about 5 minutes they are not trying to sell us anything or make us sign up for anything. They are not using our e-mail addresses for anything except to insure that we are real so please visit the site and fill out the survey
    TODAY!!!!!!!

  32. Alonso Follower
    19th October 2007, 13:20

    As a Spaniard, I can try to add another dimension to Gracia’s comments. Read it again, because what he is actually doing is accusing the Britons of racism, that is, saying: “Britons desire so strongly to have an F1 champion that they will support him even if he is black” Which is, I think, insulting to the UK fan crowd, but not racist.

    Whatever interpretation you pick, this man must strongly apologize for his words.

  33. It is insulting. I’m British and I have no issue with Hamilton being coloured, I haven’t even been brought up in an environment where I’ve seen many Black people but still I don’t think like this. But then again i’m logical, why should the colour of the skin matter? sure it makes someone look differently, but I didn’t support Michael Schumacher because he was more handsome than Eddie Irvine or Jacques Villeneuve. Personality is the key reason for supporting a driver. Racism is out of place, and very few people in Britain think like this, sure they know he’s black and for that it’s reasonably unusual, but we support him because he’s one of us.

  34. @carlos (Comment #20)

    Please give me a link. English would work of course! Thanks.

  35. Macademia,

    Sorry, I did not say well, when I said about links from all the world, I was talking literally, links from all the world, written in spanish, french, russian…not in english. If still interested…Anyway I saw an english link in 29 about the words of Hamilton joining his name to Senna.(Still I do not think it is a sin, just a reasonable wish for a talented young man, that probably someday we will see come to true).

    About you say that “Disobeying team orders is like you not listening to your mother”, well, I agree, but if you say yes, but you do not, you are causing a problem to another person. I think Hamilton could have been honest before the race and to say he is not going to do the agreed, and solve the things with the team. I think he was, at least, undisciplined, and he was not very fair, whinning to punish his teammate in Hungary. In Monaco, he did disobey team instructions, and his team did not punish him, so he did it again in Hungary, causing a great damage to Alonso.
    You say “He could have simply asked the team to not let him go first at the next race or whatever”, but if it is the second time, and you have seen that the first time the team seems not able to punish him, what you can expect for the next race? Alonso just tried Hamilton would fulfill with the agreed previously. Maybe “he chose to play foul”, but still I think he is not the “slimy trickster rat”, as uk press described him. I do not discuss the right of Hamilton to want to win over Alonso, but his notfulfillment to the agreed word.

    Well, just my opinion.

  36. Which paper called him a ‘slimy trickster rat’? That would be a new low…

  37. @Alonso Follower (#32)

    I think your interpretation of this incident is spot on.

  38. Nonsense!
    If people don’t like Hamilton is because he is arrogant, fake and two face, not because he is mix race! Also if hamilton was driving a spiker I can assure you that none of that nonsense would be happening.

    I’m also surprised that Hamilton calls himself black, his mother is white therefore he is as black as he is white.

  39. It took 38 comments but catalans finally got it right. This is not a “race” issue, this is going to be a HAMILTON issue for years to come. This kid has been brought into F1, groomed for years and fed by Mclaren’s silver spoon, he’s had more opportunities than any driver EVER, he doesn’t seem to appreciate what McLaren have done for him and it looks like we’re going to have another Michael Schumacher on our hands. The tyre incident in practice today is a clear indication of his sway in F1….there was NO WAY POSSIBLE to penalize him, it had to be a cash penalty or some delayed penalty. This kid is going to get away with stuff just like the great one. Welcome to (modern) F1.

  40. Dear Rohan

    I, like you, am Indian. Would like to point out to you that Asia includes Japan, China all the rest called East Asia as well as the Indian sub-continent. ‘Oriental’ is a term which is very colonial and used mainly by Indians referring to East Asia. If you were to visit East Asia, you would realize that when most of the world refers to Asia, they usually mean East Asia. And people from Japan, China, Korea etc down into South East Asia. Trust me, I live in Hong Kong and have traveled several times to all but two countries across the full Asia.
    By saying Narian Kartikeyan was the first Asian F1 driver, you are 1. showing you don’t know your geography and 2. showing you don’t know your history of F1. Japan has provided several drivers through the years. The most recent driver of non-Japanese and non-Indian origin was Alex Yoong who was Malaysian and drove for Minardi a few years ago.
    Lastly, you do seem to make rather sweeping statements about Hamilton like you know him rather well. Do you?

  41. Racism has no place in motor sport or anywhere els in the world.

    As a huge McLaren fan, or I should say former McLaren Fan, cause after Ron Dennis lying, and he did lie about the spy thing, I have lost everything for the team.
    But what stuns me is that this Racism case for me looks like a smoke screen, to take the focus off McLaren, and now we have to be sorry for Lewis.

    I’m not saying that his comments are not outrageous, but they came at a very critical moment.

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