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. John F said on 19th October 2007, 0:22

    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!!!!!!!

  2. Alonso Follower said on 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.

  3. Scott said on 19th October 2007, 13:46

    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.

  4. MacademiaNut said on 19th October 2007, 14:41

    @carlos (Comment #20)

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

  5. carlos said on 19th October 2007, 20:09

    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.

  6. Keith Collantine (@keithcollantine) said on 19th October 2007, 20:57

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

  7. @Alonso Follower (#32)

    I think your interpretation of this incident is spot on.

  8. catalans said on 20th October 2007, 0:17

    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.

  9. Number 38 said on 20th October 2007, 5:41

    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.

  10. Anant said on 31st October 2007, 7:06

    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?

  11. Jæver said on 4th June 2008, 20:59

    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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