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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