F1 must take a stand against racism

Comment

Lewis Hamilton, McLaren-Mercedes MP4/23, 2008 | McLaren mediaYesterday I wrote that “I haven’t seen any evidence of a racial motivation” in the attacks Lewis Hamilton has been subjected to in Spain this week.

Today damning evidence of that fact has come in from a number of sources, the worst being of four spectators at the track with blacked-up faces and gorilla masks wearing T-shirts bearing the phrase “Hamilton’s family”.

It is now indisputably clear that Hamilton’s skin colour is a point of objection for a despicable minority.

The time has come for everyone involved in Formula 1, be they fans, drivers, team personnel or the sports’ governing body, to take firm action against this group and ensure they are kept out of F1 races, tests and other events.

Other sports have spent years trying to purge the racist element from their grandstands. There has to be an immediate reaction against this alarming new development.

It goes without saying that the sports’ governing body must show it is taking this seriously. And I would suggest this a good moment for Fernando Alonso to step forward and remind some of his countrymen that professional rivalry is one thing, but racism is indefensible.

Tomorrow every British newspaper and many international ones will carry pictures of the kinds of vile behaviour that many of us thought only happened at football matches. Questions will be asked about why the Circuit de Catalunya owners did not throw these people out of the venue.

A swift denunciation and strong action from the sport must follow. Formula 1 cannot allow itself to be tinged by accusations of racism.

Update at 11:57, 4/2/08 – Britain’s biggest selling newspaper put the story on their front page today. Meanwhile the FIA has asked Spain motor racing body, the Real Federacion Espanola de Automovilismo (RFEA), to submit an explanation of how they plan to prevent a repeat.

They will have to work quickly as several teams including McLaren are testing in Jerez from Tuesday next week. The two races to be held in Spain this year in Barcelona and Valencia may be under threat.

Update at 15:12, 4/2/08 – The RFEA have condemned the spectators, saying:

The Federation wants to show its absolute repulse at these incomprehensible events, as well as showing its support to the McLaren team and especially to their driver Lewis Hamilton. Car racing is a sport where events that divert from cordiality between fans and drivers and teams will not be allowed. These kind of madmen who confuse sporting rivalry with violence must know that the Federation will have no tolerance with them.

The RFEA wants to make clear that the protagonists of this event were a very small group that doesn’t represent the thousands of people who enjoy this sport in a fun and cordial way. The RFEA also wants to highlight the speed at which the Circuit officials removed the offensive banners and the trouble markers from the stands. The governing body has asked the circuits to increase their preventive measures to avoid this kind of incidents in the future.

Additionally the Circuit de Catalunya issued this statement threatening potential legal action against the spectators:

We strongly support the FIA’s position with regards to fighting against all racial, political or religious discrimination in motor sport. The Circuit de Catalunya will not allow even the smallest incident to repeat itself within its facilities, and new measures are currently being taken into consideration in addition to those implemented during the latest sessions.

These measures have been studied with the support of the Catalan Police and the Circuit’s security services, and they will be reinforced in the upcoming tests sessions and at the Gran Premio de Espana Telefonica de Formula 1. In case of sanctions, the Circuit de Catalunya may consider the possibility of taking legal actions against those who caused the incidents, regardless of the magnitude.

The Circuit de Catalunya will officially state its position to the FIA, the Real Federacion Espanola de Automovilismo and the rest of circuits in Spain, with special interest for those who also host Formula 1 tests.

Photo copyright: McLaren media

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86 comments on F1 must take a stand against racism

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  1. Number 38 said on 3rd February 2008, 17:54

    Ah yes! It’s Alonso that has to lead the charge, it’s “HIS” people that are the trouble makers!

    Four idiots in monkey suits versus 70 million worldwide fans…….and WE’RE giving them the stage. This isn’t even a story. Ignor them.

  2. I find it odd that those photographed were not removed from the circuit. If a photographer can see them, then so can everyone else.

    I’m not sure Alonso needs to get involved. After all, it isn’t like he asked for these people to do this. And honestly, are these @£$%s actually going to listen to Fernando!?

    Instead, it needs the circuits that F1 visits to be warned by the FIA that behaviour like this would result in the race being taken away. This would put the onus on the circuits to deal with the idiots and may even allow Bernie to get some free space for his new events.

  3. Keith Collantine (@keithcollantine) said on 3rd February 2008, 17:58

    I’m not saying Alonso’s responsible, I’m saying it would be an effective way of dealing with it.

    He is obviously the most popular F1 driver in Spain, and if him taking a stand against this persuades even one person to make these people stop then it would be entirely worthwhile.

    Besides which, if someone were racially abusing someone else and using me to legitimise it (look at the back of their shirts), I’d consider it the only decent thing to do.

  4. I agree that if one person changes then his words would be worth it. I just don’t think it would work. Some people are just idiots and the only way to effectively deal with them is to ban them from entering the events. If they get in, then security should be all over them as soon as the start doing the strange stuff that they did. They should be taken down to the police station, charged and then told to never step foot in a racing circuit again, their record going to the circuit for future policing.

    A swift denunciation and strong action from the sport must follow.

    I agree completely. I just think it should be led by the FIA rather than Fernando.

  5. A campaign to get rid of these kind of people shouldn’t be led by Alonso, but by everyone in F1. In football they have “Show Racism The Red Card” which involves the vast majority of players. All the drivers should put their weight behind a campaign to get rid of all racism in F1, in particular these idiots at Catalunya.

  6. Steven Roy said on 3rd February 2008, 18:43

    We have seen the same thing in football for decades. Alonso has to let these people know he is disgusted by their behaviour. Whether people that stupid will listen who knows but it is something football clubs have been doing for a long time.

    In Scotland we have the religious bigotry associated with Rangers and Celtic and both clubs have gone to enormous lengths to make clear what is and is not acceptable behaviour.

    There will always be a minority who believe that their hero is only saying what is politically correct and that really he agrees with them but justcan’t say so publically. These people need to be dealt with by the circuits and if necessary the police.

    Number 38 suggests ignoring them. That is absolutely wrong. Football did that initially and the problem became a lot worse. These people and incidenst must be stamped on hard. The people involved should be given life time bans from all motor racing events as happens in football.

  7. These ‘fans’ are doing F1 no favours at all and this kind of behaviour needs to be stamped on now. There is no excuse for it.

  8. carlos said on 3rd February 2008, 19:07

    Again, I do not think this is racism, the insults over Hamilton does have a motive, true or false, that is a not good perception of the behaviour and words of Lewis, some people does think so, the 4 with gorilla masks. What that people did is tasteless, but to say F1 is having a problem of racism is too much to say in my opinion.
    The racism does not need a motive, the motive is just the colour of the skin, there is not another motive.

    You can not involve the name of another driver in this. If we have to stop the racism in F1, it would be good before to know if that is a repeated behaviour in the time or a isolated fact, and that is the job of the FIA and the police, not for the shoulders of the drivers.

    We can not to brandish the flag against the racism for 4 stupid people with gorilla masks. That is not a racist attack.
    We will see if this is repeated again, but hopefully it is just a grossness of a stupid people, I can not see an attack in this.

  9. I really don’t believe what I’m seeing just here.

    It seems the football hooligans seems to have found themselves a new home in the F1 arena using the excuse of Fernando Alonso.This has nothing to do with him , and I don’t think they’ll listen even if he speaks.From reading Ed Gorman’s F1 blog in particular I have got the impression that there was some extreme partisanship on the part of quite a few Spanish fans but even so this I didn’t think it got this deep.

    The same kind of thing has happened over here but to a lesser extent.As you pointed out in your last post F1′s really become more mainstream and unfortunately people seem not to understand that F1 isn’t like football (including ITV – judging by their Brazilian GP shambles of a programme) .There is no “England” team here and people seem to be unable to appreciate F1 for what it is.

    There are going to be two races in Spain next year for the first time since 97 and they are the only country to have this privilege. Heaven help us if they come back to ruin stuff – I really like the look of Valencia but I don’t see why there should be any F1 if hooligans think they can ruin things.I get the impression in Spain that this problem isn’t taken as seriously as it should be and perhaps people might get the message if the FIA said there was going to be no Grand Prix anymore.

  10. Keith Collantine (@keithcollantine) said on 3rd February 2008, 19:20

    Carlos, given the reports of what was shouted at Hamilton and the fact that the people in the Pitpass pictures were wearing T-shirts with the slogans “Hamilton’s family”, I do not think you can deny this was a racist attack.

    Action must be taken against it right away, to leave these people in no doubt that it is not acceptable, and to prevent others from doing the same.

  11. carlos said on 3rd February 2008, 19:38

    I agree with the last paragraph,”Action must be taken against it right away, to leave these people in no doubt that it is not acceptable, and to prevent others from doing the same.”

    But we have to use the “Racism” and “attack” words very carefully. Maybe I have to know more about that incidents, and maybe you are right, if that people did throw things against the Mclaren team, then I do consider it as an attack, but I do see too much contradictory sources about that.

  12. At least the FIA have a voice today and have responded with threatened sanctions should the behaviour be repeated. Which is better than the bury head in sand approach.
    Autosport, BlogF1.

  13. Keith Collantine (@keithcollantine) said on 3rd February 2008, 20:35

    Thanks for that Ollie. Here’s the statement from the FIA:

    The FIA is surprised and disappointed at the abuse directed at Lewis Hamilton.

    Abuse of this kind is a clear breach of the principles enshrined in the FIA statutes and any repetition will result in serious sanctions.

    The FIA’s intolerance of racism is enshrined in its Statutes, with Article 1 stating: “The FIA shall refrain from manifesting racial, political or religious discrimination in the course of its activities and from taking any action in this respect.”

    Here are the FIA statutes in full: PDF download. Good to see they’re not messing about with this.

  14. I would like to add that any form of bigotry – racial or religous is unacceptable not only in sport but in life as said earlier it should be stamped down – and action not words are what is req they should have been thrown out – why not?? – and what action against future idiots is going to happen?

  15. Oh, there’s always idiots. And when you get a really successful sports star, they come out of the woodwork. We had it with the clowns in their Mansell T-shirts who used to come to the British GP in the early 90s with their “F*** Senna” banners.

    And I remember being ashamed of my old home town after hearing that a group of German tourists were assaulted the night after Germany knocked England out of Euro ’96…

    Then there were the idiots from Schumi’s army who made issued death threats to Damon Hill….

    Best to do what we can to keep these people away from F1.

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