F1 must take a stand against racism


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

  1. Kostyasch said on 4th February 2008, 12:12


    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!

  2. Keith Collantine (@keithcollantine) said on 4th February 2008, 12:16

    Thanks Kostyasch.

  3. frecon said on 4th February 2008, 12:29

    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.

  4. frecon said on 4th February 2008, 12:53

    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.

  5. Steven Roy said on 4th February 2008, 13:01

    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.

  6. 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.

  7. Michael K said on 4th February 2008, 13:43

    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.

  8. frecon said on 4th February 2008, 13:50

    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.

  9. carlos said on 4th February 2008, 14:07


    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.

  10. Tommy B said on 4th February 2008, 15:35

    “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?

  11. Steven Roy said on 4th February 2008, 15:50


    Do you not think black make up suggests racism? It does in the rest of the world. It will to Max and the FIA. This kind of lunacy could result in Spain losing its F1 races.

    No-one is saying the whole crowd is racist.

  12. Number 38 said on 4th February 2008, 15:52

    39 postings of rubbish, here is the Catalunya story we should be chatting up:

  13. carlos said on 4th February 2008, 16:42

    Does the black make-up indicate racism?

    The gorilla masks do it, because it does mean a black person is being compared to an animal in a derogatory way, but I do not see the racist insult in the black make-up.
    I do find the story with the gorilla masks is very different that the story without the gorilla masks.

  14. Keith Collantine (@keithcollantine) said on 4th February 2008, 16:52

    Historically, I think sensitivity to white people putting on black make-up and pretending to be black is to do with derogatory representations of black people in forms of entertainment such as minstrel shows (see Wikipedia) but I’m sure other people can give you more detailed explanations than I can.

  15. carlos said on 4th February 2008, 17:15


    In Spain we do have traditions as the 3 magi kings, one of the kings is black, and usually a white man uses black makeup with that purpose, that is not derogatory, in fact that black king is traditionally the dearest king for a spanish child. That black makeup in minstrel shows did can be derogatory in the XIX century in a part of the world, but we have not that view in Spain.

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