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)

  1. carlos said on 17th October 2007, 18:39

    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.

  2. MacademiaNut said on 17th October 2007, 18:42

    @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.

  3. oliver said on 17th October 2007, 18:45

    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.

  4. MacademiaNut said on 17th October 2007, 18:49

    @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!

  5. carlos said on 17th October 2007, 19:25

    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.

  6. 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.

  7. Scott said on 17th October 2007, 21:27

    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…!

  8. 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

  9. Jimmy Kahn said on 17th October 2007, 22:38

    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!

  10. Wesley said on 17th October 2007, 23:18

    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.

  11. John F said on 18th October 2007, 3:10

    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.

  12. verasaki said on 18th October 2007, 4:38

    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?

  13. 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?

  14. Magnus said on 18th October 2007, 10:35

    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

  15. 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

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