F1 must take a stand against racism

CommentPosted on | Author Keith Collantine

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. Thanks for the context, Frecon. Can you give us any more details?

    I read elsewhere that it was similar to taunts that some black footballers have received in Spain, including one called Samuel Etoo. I’m no expert on this, I was wondering if anyone else had heard anything similar? As Frecon says this is not to mitigate or trivialise what happened, just to understand it.

    This article in Marca (in Spanish) also seems to have some new information about what went on. A crude translation using Google suggests they’re putting the number of people involved at 3,500, which would be alarming if true:

    “It was not an isolated event, but the general conduct of some 3,500 fans who gathered in the gallery’s main circuit yesterday morning.”

    Perhaps some of the Spanish speakers here could provide a more reliable interpretation?

  2. Samuel Eto’o is a Barcelona player who received a lot of racist abuse. I am not sure why he was singled out but there were examples of teams with other black players whose fans subject Eto’o to racist abuse.

  3. Why are we spending so much time picking on a few hooligans in the grandstands. Oh, sure, we’re going to ban them from races.
    What about the Muslim hooligans that burn 4000 cars in Paris, how you going to ban them?
    Instead of expecting Alonso to quell the crowd why not ask Bernie to move the race.

  4. Hi, 38 — can you name a country where racism doesn’t exist? To where Bernie should relocate Spain from the circuit?

    Just curious, because I’m a very uninformed American, and I’m only trying to learn here.

  5. Alonso HAS to get involved, absolutely! I’m surprised that with all the reporters and journalists around he hasn’t condemn these acts yet in Barcelona.

    Not because it’s his responsibilty how his fans behave, but because he has to distance himself and make it clear to his fans that it’s not the support he wants. I do beleive if he harshly condemned this it would stop most of these lunatics acting this way. And even if it wouldn’t (which I don’t beleive) it would be an important gesture.

    Schumacher also distanced himself and condemn it when his fans threatened Damon Hill in 1994. That’s what I expect from Alonso too!

  6. Frecon!

    I don’t think chanting “f****** black” and so on has anything to do with some Spanish carnival, sorry.

  7. Kostyasch, I said yesterday, and i repeat now. Racist insults existed and it’s regettable, and it’s not related with carnivals. I only gave an explanations for costumes. Irreverents costumes are a tradition. About politicians, about religion, about celebrities and of course about sport. I don’t know that people but i think they were trying to make fun of Anthony Hamilton going with Lewis at every GP. I think so, but maybe i’m wrong.

    I was yesterday reading a lot of newspaper and i think the translation of Marca is pretty close to reality. Apparently it wasn’t an isolated group of people, and most of the people placed in front of the Mclaren box was booing and insulting Hamilton. Circuit staff decided to fence that part of the stands after a Mclaren responsible made an unofficial complaining. Also staff decided tor retire all posters. i think in a normal situation most of the posters wasn’t offensive, but with all the racist abuse issue, it was a good idea remove it. Also a little group of people was expelled from circuit. Maybe this decissions could in the future save Montmelo to be punish.

    I’d like to belive that the racist abuse was started by a minority, and the crowd start to adding without realising what they were really doing. I’d would like to belive that the racist abuse it wasn’t racism and some people chose the most evident of Lewis characteristics to build insults, and they also could insult the beard of Heidfild, or the bald of Dennis.

    But the fact is, more than 3000 people was shouting, booing, and a lot insulting Lewis and that’s completely regrettable.

  8. Alonso SHOULD step up to the plate and denounce these ‘fans’, for sure.

  9. I have a clear opinion on this which is that the root of this racism is Spain itself. If you look at racism in football and how Spanish people in this thread try to explain that it’s partly just a bit of fun just proves my opinion that Spain is at least more racist than any other big European country I know. I don’t think Alonso will speak up as this will probably alienate him from those kind of fans, which I think are quite large in numbers in Spain. Just look at football, Eto’o is just one example, it happens all the time and the Spanish federation does nothing about it. Or the quotes of Aragones, in every other major football nation the manager would’ve been fired, no questions asked. I know that the Spanish people will now say that it’s all not meant that way, but how would you feel if English fans would start treating Alonso the same way? Spain is sadly a little far behind in the fight against racism and shows no signs of tackling it properly.

  10. Alonso should definitely step in and publicly criticise the so-called ‘fans’ who have taken part in this dispicable act. It’s clear they hate Hamilton as a lot of fair weather english fans will hate Alonso , but bringing race into it is too easy, backward and bigoted. Spanish football suffers a similar indignity unfortunately as do a lot of Eastern European countries which subject black footballers to horrific chants when national teams play matches. People criticise England football fans, but it’s not like it was in the 80’s – and that’s through schemes like kicking racism out of football. Other sports and nations should look at what the FA has done with english football and take action against those who bring sport into disrepute with racist abuse.

  11. http://www.adrivo.com/nachrichten/formel1/55750/2008/02/04/kein_platz_fuer_unsportliches_verhalten___fia_macht_ernst.html

    This German article claims Alonso commented it saying: “Some of those spectators are like animals.”

    IMO he could have said more but at least he commented it and condemned it at last!

  12. Thanks Kostyasch.

  13. Michael K. I’m not trying to justify or trivialise anything. I’m just trying to put a context in a single fact, and it was the issue about the customes. I’ve try to explain the tradition of the costumes, and my point it’s people here probably don’t think is more than a joke. Anyway I understand for other people out of Spain, with an explanation could be offensive, and also i understand for other people even with the explanation is still offensive.

    I’ ve said in all my post, but i insist, I DO NOT defend any racist abuse, I DO NOT say that racial abuse didn’t exist, I DO NOT justify that behavior.

    Sadly racism in Spain exists as in most of the other europeans countries. Racist behavior exists in spanish sport fields, as exists in most of the other european countries. Sadly Spain have been the first country showing racist abuse in F1.

    I don’t think Alonso is responsible of any of this. Last season basically he complained about Mclaren, and since he left the team, he has refused to answer any question related with Hamilton. I think the ones who must calm down that people are the 2 or 3 journalist who light up the hatred to Hamilton. An Alonso criticism could help, but i think then he will assuiming responsability in something which is completly unconected with him.

    Etoo. It was racial abuse in some fields of Spanish League, and is still happening this year. In some fields the majority of the crowd protests and achieve to silence the racial insults, but unfortunately it’s very unsual. Oddly Aragones was one of the first Etoo’s coach, and Etoo always talk about him as an excellent person who teached a lot about football.

  14. I forgot… talking about hatred and fair play

    1994 WRC championship. British Rally. On the second day Carlos Sainz was in the first position, and McRae was Second. Next day Sainz was the first in run each sector. Oddly when he ran the sectors it was trunks in the middle of the roads, which misteriously had dissapeared when McRae drove in the same parts.

  15. I think there are two distinct issues here and one of them is being lost.

    Racism is indefensible and rightly is being condemned.

    But people seem for some reason to want to spend time, effort and money to go to a track to shout abuse and throw things at a team/driver. While it is important that the racism is dealt with it is also important that someone deals with the morons who hurl abuse of other kinds. Motor racing does not need that. By all means if you can’t find anything better to do with your life make up posters etc but at least try and understand the context.

    Throwing anything at a car,driver or team should result in a life time ban. Motor racing is dangerous but morons who throw things make it infinitely more dangerous than is necessary.

    The racism has to be dealt with but so does the underlying behaviour. This is motor racing not war.

  16. Sad and shameful! Those guys are ********, and unfortunately a bunch of stupid guys in gorilla masks sells more papers than millions of fans who respect others opinions and can understand sport has nothing to do with politics or races.

  17. Frecon, I understand your point and also what you wrote before. I agree, racism exists anywhere in the world, Eastern Europe was also rightly mentioned in this context. Britain, France, Germany, etc. were all at the same stage that Spain is at now, the difference for me looking at it from the outside is that it is generally more accepted and almost nothing is being done against it. The Aragones case clearly stands out here as does the racist abuse of visiting European teams as examples that got widespread international coverage but from the Spanish side not much was done.
    It is good that Alonso made remarks against this sort of behaviour and my view of him would definitely change for the better if he openly attacked those animals as he called them.

  18. I agree. I think spanish people don’t realise about the size of racism problem, and think is a minority who are racist. But doing nothing about racim you’re supporting it. Solutions must be took inmediatly.

    Although i think the Aragones affair was a missundertanding, and he’s not racist. But i think it’s not only what you think is also what you say, and after that quotes Aragones should been inmediatly fired.

  19. Keith,

    There is something wrong here, I thinked the people in the photo of pitpass are wearing gorilla masks, meaning they are insulting Lewis with a racist topic, I can not see these masks, just I see people with black makeup pretending to be a lot of Hamiltons saying Alonso is the number 1, exactly where is the racist thing in this? It would be the gorilla masks what would be a racist insult, but these masks do not exist.

    About the banners I have seen one referring the crane in germany, and other one saying “Hamilton, you talk too much ****”, again, what is the racism here?

    There was a great part of the crowd insulting Hamilton, and somebody did listen racists insults from somebody in the crowd, but it is very different to say that all the crowd was doing racists insults. And this is the only racist thing that I can find in this story.

    About the things that the people did throw over Lewis, I was trying find something, but nothing of that seem have happened.(Pitpass says yes, but the rest of media do not say the same thing). Maybe I am not right, but I can not find that.

    Still, there was racist insults and one is enough, all that people should be identified and admonished, and maybe something more than that, but if we are talking about racism, we have to say what exactly happened and how exactly that racism was, and to verify the facts, then we can talk about racism.

  20. “just I see people with black makeup pretending to be a lot of Hamiltons” “exactly where is the racist thing in this?”

    Are you joking?

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