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

  1. No offence Carlos but I don’t think the Spanish consider Lewis Hamilton the dearest king. Also regarding the gorilla masks not being racist – a few years ago when England played Spain at football in Spain Shaun Wright-Phillips and Ashley Cole endured racist chants coupled with monkey noises, so I think there is definitely a racist element in these masks.

  2. AndyWolf said on 4th February 2008, 17:26

    Vertigo, you stole my thunder there. I agree, there seems to be an total intolerance to English blacks in Spain…. In the football situation, FIFA only gave a poultry fine. Let’s hope the FIA has a more solid spine & wipes Spain off the F1 calendar if this happens agian. ZERO TOLERENCE is the only way.. FFS, its the 21st century, not the 18th!

  3. carlos said on 4th February 2008, 17:30

    Vertigo,

    There is no offence, welcome.
    Not, Lewis is not too much loved here, but it is not for the colour of his skin.

    Really, I do not know too much about football, the names and that match are unknown for me, I suppose they are black people too, really I do not know about that, sorry.

  4. .oO(A poultry fine? What, he had to hand his chickens over? Ohhhh, wait a minute, I think he means “paltry” :D)

    Sorry, couldn’t resist. I’ve seen no photos of gorilla masks, apart from those worn by Kimi a while back. They were merely faces painted black and so indicated the extent of their owners’ ignorance as well as their racism; Hamilton’s mother is white.

    Number 38, I hate to say it, but the PitPass article referred to by your good self almost certainly made the news only because of the racist furore over the weekend. Had there been no scandal, we would probably never have learned of Claudia’s support for McLaren – PitPass are doing a noble thing in trying to show the other side of the story.

    It’s the old, old story: bad news makes the headlines, good news is consigned to a short paragraph on page 34.

  5. Keith Collantine (@keithcollantine) said on 4th February 2008, 17:57

    Further useful context on Autosport that covers a lot of the things we’ve been discussing.

  6. AndyWolf said on 4th February 2008, 18:14

    Clive, I know what i meant!!! the Spainish FA had to send 55 Chickens to FIFA as compensation…. ;)

  7. carlos said on 4th February 2008, 18:20

    Keith,

    I guess if I look for “racism” and “uk” in google, I am going to find many things too.

    I do not think there is racism towards Hamilton, there is some people that used the characteristics of his colour (half black/white) as an insult, if he would have been white with squint eyed, they would have used that difference against him, they are stupid people that resorts to insults to show their hostility.
    The motivation was not racial, the insults were racial. To consider this as a racial attack, I think it is a wrong view, it is just my opinion.

  8. Scott Joslin said on 4th February 2008, 18:59

    I am not going to get in to the fine detail of the type of abuse leveled towards Lewis, the headline of this article is relating to what actions (if any) F1 should take. I think it is simple, fanatical hatred whether it crosses the blurry lines of Racism or not should be condemned by the whole F1 community. Punish the circuit and punish the Spanish motor sport authority and if it happens again, ban Spanish fans from the circuit and hold the race without any fans. but Punishing authorities is not the long term answer, the FIA must incorporate a similar program as the English Football Association of “Kick Racism Out” On going education of the correct social respect needs to involve the drivers and teams alike. We were always going to have to address this issue one day, the quicker we address it the sooner these headlines will disappear and we can talk about on track headlines.

  9. In that case, AndyWolf, I can only express my wholehearted support for poultry fines. Let us have more of them!

    Mind you, I don’t know where McLaren would have managed to find 50 million chickens… ;)

  10. frecon said on 4th February 2008, 20:39

    I think my point of view is clear enough.

    But i want two add two quick ideas:

    1) some parts of the info published is exagereted.

    2) you are enjoying as hell talking about racism in spain, racists spaniards, and spanish bad behaviour, and in some way that’s xenophobia.

    Measure your comments. You are not better for using a 1000 words explaining why british are better than spanish, instead of say “f****** spanish”

  11. Steven Roy said on 4th February 2008, 20:42

    I am glad to see the Spanish ASN speak out. They helped stir up the feeling that Alonso had been disadvantaged by asking for an equality steward to be appointed in Brazil. At least now they are trying to calm the situation down.

  12. frecon said on 4th February 2008, 20:48

    By the way, Circuit of Catalunya and sapanish Federation have said that they are not going to allow more racist abuse, and they are studying actions which includes police surviliance and intervention. It lasts just two days to take this deccision, and it lasts just a coiple of hours remove banners and expell the people whos was shouting.

    Now you can continue your xenophobic speech Spain=S***

  13. Frecon I appreciate the fact that you are angry because you believe we are enjoying attacking Spain and therefore you, but I don’t take any pleasure out of discussing racism, and frankly I’d rather this hadn’t happened and that we didn’t HAVE to talk about it. Racism is a problem that needs weeding out wherever it is found, not just in Spain, and I get no pleasure from discussing it.

  14. Carlos,

    I won’t deny that Britain has its more than fair share of racism, I grew up amongst some of the worst of it, and I’m not going to deny it doesn’t happen across the world – but that’s no excuse for it to be there. Those that choose to express this opinion on such an International platform and scene should be ashamed….I would even say they shouldn’t be allowed to breed.

    I’d admit openly that I dislike Hamilton enough to even forward videos which I thought were interpreted as “Hamilton, you lead like a moron” – but as soon as I learnt of the racism, I immediately apologised and retracted as to be honest I had no clue what they said, they couldve have had racial incitement for all I knew, but I thought the sport hadn’t come to that yet – Bernie was right in his saying he wishes people wouldn’t make him out to be the “first black F1 driver because it’s not about that”. One of the reasons I liked about F1 is that there’s not much chaos towards the participants in relation to the likes of football.

    To say that wearing black makeup, with Hamiltons Family written on their tops, and prancing around isn’t racial incitement would be a bit naive…taking the piss, derogatory especially, is half the time imitating someone – if I were an F1 driver and the crowd pulled the skin around their eyes back I’d know fine well what they mean. If you’re going to attack someone, and you choose to do it by how they look, how they born, or anything similar, that’s stooping a bit low. It basically means they find no rational ground for disliking a person so they choose the lowest denominator.

    From my experiences of Spain, and I think Barcelona’s one of the most amazing cities in the world even if some don’t consider it Spanish, they’re very big on families. How would you feel if people we’re taking it out on not only yourself, but your families as well. I wouldn’t have a problem with people racially attacking me, I can deal with ignorance, but beyond that it goes a bit far – as I’m sure a lot would agree.

    Like some others, I’m not going to go into the hate for Lewis Hamilton – I certainly dislike him very much, but I’ve been into F1 longer than anything else in my life and I don’t care where he comes from (just like any other driver) – but he doesn’t deserve the recent treatment that’s been reported.

    I have never been a nationalistic or patriotic person, not to say I don’t have pride where I came from, but I would hate to see Lewis Hamilton leave or disappear from F1 on such primary school playground affairs.

    The point of this blog post is that F1 must take a stand against racism, not whether or not you like Lewis Hamilton, and I fully support it – not just in F1, but on an International scale. The threat and bullying of someone based on where they come from, how they were born, or any related topic, is just low – plain and simple. It’s not excusable.

  15. frecon said on 4th February 2008, 20:56

    The Circuit de Catalunya wishes to explain its position regarding the actions of a minority of spectators on Friday, February 1st during the test session of Formula One teams:

    1. The total number of spectators during the three days of the event was 55,000 fans with a general attitude of respectful and excellent behaviour during the whole session. The Circuit de Catalunya particularly wants to thank the majority of fans for their attitude, and kindly seeks public recognition of this.

    2. We strongly support the FIA’s position with regards to fighting against all racial, political or religious discrimination in motor sport.

    3. 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 España Telefónica de Formula One.

    4. That the Gran Premio de España Telefónica de Formula One represents the image of a country in the world and the Circuit de Catalunya will not accept any abuse of this image through racist attitudes or attacks on sporting competitions. The Circuit requests the Grand Prix to be the genuine meeting point for all the different supporters of drivers and teams in our sport. Especially to represent the welcome and sporting values of our country and our national sponsor.

    5. 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.

    6. The Circuit de Catalunya will officially state its position to the FIA, the Real Federación Española de Automovilismo (Spanish Motorsports Federation) and the rest of circuits in Spain, with special interest for those who also host Formula One tests.

    Circuit de Catalunya
    February 4th, 2008

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