In it for the hate

Posted on | Author Keith Collantine

Lewis Hamilton, McLaren-Mercedes MP4/23 launch, 2008 | DaimlerTrack officials at the Circuit de Catalunya closed one of the spectators enclosures during today’s F1 testing at the circuit after prolonged abuse aimed at the McLaren team from a group of spectators.

Anti-Hamilton and McLaren banners have been commonplace during testing this winter, most of which is conducted at Spanish venues such as Jerez, Valencia and the Barcelona circuit that hosts the Spanish Grand Prix. I posted some video of Hamilton being jeered at Valencia earlier.

Is this an early sign that there will be problems with crowd control at some races this year?

The track organisers put today’s trouble down to “a minority of fans that were behaving unsportingly” and I’m sure they’re telling the truth, because this is the way these things always are. But it doesn’t prevent the possibility the same minority may have already bought tickets for either of this year’s F1 races in Spain.

British football has considerable experience in dealing with these problems, and the authorities take care to obtain CCTV images of offenders to ensure they are kept out of future events. I hope the Spanish authorities are doing the same.

McLaren themselves have experience of this kind of backlash. The team’s battles with Ferrari in the 1970s and 1980s meant they often got a rough reception from the Italian Tifosi which, like today’s trouble in Spain, included people throwing items at their cars – not something that can be tolerated in Formula 1.

But just because it’s happened before doesn’t make it excusable. So why is this happening again?

I expect many of the ‘fans’ would say they are angry that Alonso was unfairly treated by McLaren last year in favour of Lewis Hamilton. I think it’s an idiotic conspiracy theory but it’s obviously popular in Spain – 133,000 people, mostly Spanish, signed a petition (English version) complaining about a list of spurious ‘irregularities’.

Writing on ITV-F1 recently James Allen suggested there was “a racist element” to some of the Hamilton hate. He wasn’t speaking directly of Spanish fans, and as I haven’t seen any evidence of a racial motivation I certainly would not describe it that way.

But what I do find odd is that there are some Alonso fans who got up this morning, and decided to make a banner because they were going to an F1 test. But instead of making a banner supporting Alonso, they made one attacking Hamilton.

There are a billion reasons to like F1. I don’t like the thought that some people who buy Grand Prix tickets are in it for the hate.

The test concludes tomorrow.

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