Lewis Hamilton fans ‘racist’ (updated)

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)

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  1. Robert McKay said on 17th October 2007, 9:51

    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. nellyweb said on 17th October 2007, 10:38

    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. Robert Mckay said on 17th October 2007, 10:52

    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. oliver said on 17th October 2007, 12:17

    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. Rohan said on 17th October 2007, 12:33

    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. Steve said on 17th October 2007, 12:36

    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. Magnus said on 17th October 2007, 14:02

    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. Daniel said on 17th October 2007, 14:22

    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. Arturo said on 17th October 2007, 14:23

    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. oliver said on 17th October 2007, 14:38

    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. Rohan said on 17th October 2007, 17:07

    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. Keith Collantine (@keithcollantine) said on 17th October 2007, 17:19

    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.

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