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. Frecon, this would have been treated exactly the same by this website if it happened in any other country. I did add an update about the facts you’ve raised in comments 57 and 61 several hours ago.

    I realise there’s a danger of sensationalising things like this but I’ve been cautious to point out that some sources are in other languages and interpretations may vary. It would be useful to get some thought from a Spanish speaker on the article referred to in comment 21.

    But it’s not as if I’ve put up a big banner with the words ‘bigots in Spain‘ on it, have I?

  2. Sorry Keith. I was not talking about your blog article, it was about some comments posted later. I don’t think you are being sensationalist.

    About the update: When i clicked the link in the main site, i did in the comments link, and i didn’t realise there was a new update.

  3. Ah no problem – it’s one of the tricky things about running a blog: when do you update an existing article, and when do you create a new one? If I kept creating new articles today, suddenly all I’ve got on the homepage is stuff about racism. I’ll try to find a way of making it clearer in future.

  4. You’re right Keith, in this world we can get stupid about stuff we don’t understand and limited by language barriers. Also about that link you posted from the Sun, a British newspaper – surely that’s inciting racial or xenophobic hatred by making British people hate Spanish people. I think we all need to see these things in context and learn from this stupid story started by a few idiots among thousands of true F1 fans.

  5. Also regarding the Sun’s article “Bigots in Spain”, it’s quite stupid to see the Sun taking the moral high ground when “Bigots in Spain” was the 5th most read story on their page, behind “Busty Air Girl’s Second Strip Tease”, “Cheeky Celebs Love To Flash”, “Pilot Enjoy’s Hostie’s Air Strip” and “Brazilian Carnival Sizzles”. If that’s not sensationalism I don’t know what is!

  6. whoa! 63 posts!

    I hate to see this in F1.I live in the south in the USA so,I have seen plenty of racism,especially when I was a child.I would even get picked on for not joining in with the idiots that thought it was fun to make fun of others because of their skin color.

    Maybe Alonso should speak up.(couldn’t hurt)

    He could say something like:

    “I don’t dislike Hamilton because of the color of his skin–I dislike him because he kicked my ass on the track last season and made me look bad,now I have to take my game up a notch.”

  7. grin … I agree, Wesley! (There are many other reasons to dislike Hamilton, but your point is excellent!)

  8. PS. These are Hamilton’s statements, reported by monstersandcritics:

    ‘The truth is I feel somewhat sad. I love this country, especially the city of Barcelona. The people in Spain have always been very warm,’ said Hamilton.

    ‘The only thing that I have done is to try to give the best of myself and try to win the championship. At no point have I tried to deliberately prejudice Fernando but the fight has been very tough and my image in Spain has been severely damaged.’

    I’m not sure about the “deliberately prejudicing Fernando” comment, especially considering the shots he took at him with the “I know now how not to behave as a champion” or whatever it was …

    (I don’t like Hamilton any more now than I ever did, by the way.)

  9. In the article you comment on 21 they say that there was over 3500 people who insulted LH. But, I have to add something: Marca really exaggerates everything, so in this kind of things they aren’t too much reliable.

    And, if you don’t know, yes, there’s racism in Spain, like everywhere else.

    The ‘famous’ denounce of irregularities has a lot of things a bit silly and childish. But, there’s some others that are completely true. Hamilton is hated, more than anything, because of Hungary problem. Surely it’s media’s fault, because they told very different things in England and in Spain.

    By the other hand, it’s carnival in Spain. These are days of laughing about everything, and I mean everything. Believe me, these guys weren’t the only ones wearing a costume. There was people whit McLaren costumes saying they were Alonso, and others were wearing disguises of clowns, dinosaurs,… In the circuit!

    Those ones whit the black make-up were just trying to make a joke. A Spanish journalist asked them and the answer was aproximately: ‘We are Hamilton grandparents and we are here to support Alonso. LH will see that even his grandparents support FA’. It wasn’t said in a rude way. Maybe it wasn’t too appropriate, but we can’t crucify them because they don’t know how a joke must be to be funny and not to be offensive.

    Moreover, people shouted ‘f****** black’ the same way they shouted ‘s** of b****’ (Marca says this too), and this last insult isn’t racist. So they just wanted to express his hate to a disappointing partner for Alonso, not his hate to a black guy.

    In my opinion, the discussion here shouldn’t be if racism must be tolerated in a sport (obviously not). The discussion should be if you must support a sportman or if you must hate ‘his enemy’.

    Just one last thing: Sorry for my English.

  10. “Britain’s biggest selling newspaper”

    which we all know is full of bunkum.

  11. Powerline 2008
    5th February 2008, 1:53

    It’s sad to see another sport victimized by bigots. Even sadder to read some here on this board supporting these bigots & living in denial.

  12. Hello Keith,
    Have you ever had 71 reader responses on a MOTOR RACING issue?

  13. I for one am pleased to read all of the above articulated responses to an ugly situation.

    My meager observation is that Alonso needs to state a response that condemns the track side actions of the bigots and zealots. Otherwise his silence will be assumed as support by the lunatic fringe that behaves this way. And it needs to be stronger than “Some of those spectators are like animals.”

  14. frecon!

    Nobody says Alonso is responsible (IMO he is partly responsible for what happened at McLaren while the Spanish media is trying to portray him very much one-sidedly as “THE victim” but that’s another issue. That his heated fans respond to this conflict with such behaviour is not his fault, of course.) However he should react! At least he already did with a very short comment if what Adrivo.com wrote is true (I didn’t read that quote anywhere else), better than nothing, but to be honest I expected a more clear message from him – an official statement or an interview or something. Not because it’s his responsibility what was going on there but because these are his fans and he has to make it clear he doesn’t want support like that and he condemns such behaviour! I will be very disappoined in him if he doesn’t stand up against it more clearly!

    Also, nobody says it’s only Spain where there is racism. In my country, an Eastern European country, there is racism, antisemitsm too and it saddens me just as much. And you know what? I won’t try to defend my country over this. I won’t try to play it down. Trying to make it look like nothing bad or “exaggerated” is not the way to fight against it and make your country a better country!

  15. And to be honest the reactions are very typical. Usually it goes like this:

    1) There is a racist attack.

    2) First reactions are shock and outrage.

    3) In the second wave of reactions opinions appear which try to play it down: oh, it wasn’t that bad after all, just a joke, nothing serious. The harsh condemnation of it in the media is exaggerated. Only the evil media made an issue of nothing. Etc.
    We are here now.

    4) Next step will be: actually there wasn’t anything bad happening, it’s only that guy of color who is trying to make an issue of it with the help of the evil media and by that he is trying to make us look bad and capitalize on that.

    5) And then instead of remorse the hate on the guy will even go bigger, because now all of a sudden he is the bad guy in the story in many people’s eyes.

    Sorry to sound a bit cynical but you know, there is nothing new under the Sun…

  16. It has nothing to do with Alonso, they maynot be his ppl, LH has alot of ppl who dont like him, and not all of them are Alonso fans.

    He doesnt do anything to make it better himself, if ppl know he is annoyed by it then those who want to annoy him simply will!

    This is the world we live in, you cant control every single persons actions!

  17. Hamilton is the public enemy of F1 spanish supporters.

    If he continues to tell bad words about Alonso he’ll be insulted and more…
    The Hamilton’s image is very poor in Spain, he is not welcome in Spain.

    No racism, only hate.

    And you, britains, shut up! your hooligans are the worst of the sport. You are not an example!

    It’s just an opinion.

  18. Kun,

    Are you seriously saying one driver cannot criticise another’s behaviour or if he does he can expect to be treated like this.

    The idea that it is OK just to hate someone based on the media’s representation of their views is pathetic and infantile. I really don’t understand how people can watch motor racing like it was football and only be interested in one driver. I cannot understand what motivates people to spend a day at a track hurling abuse at a driver for whatever motivation.

    The people doing that are missing the whole point of going to a circuit. Spain gets more access to F1 than any other country and instead of race fans enjoying it there are morons who do nothing but abuse someone and espouse hate. You really need to think about what you are saying.

    Make no mistake Bernie won’t hesitate to take the race somewhere else. Barcelona, Valencia and Jerez may be the most popular testing circuits now but that can change. Bernie happens to own a circuit in the south of France which is set up to re-create any kind of track layout. He would love to switch all testing there.

    The sensible Spanish fans need to decide whether or not they are going to let these morons take away all the testing and both races or whether they are going to stand up and tell these people to shut up and get out.

    People must have something better to do with their lives than hate racing drivers.

  19. Steven, Bernie is all about money and at the mo, Spain is where the money is to be made, LH has done nothing to endear himself to fans of Alonso(and I am not one), he constantly states(or the press states) this fact.

    The few racists who were in Spain should be ashamed, but in general Hamilton has to expect the Alonso Spanish fans to wind him up! Its called rivalry.

    You cant tar everyone with the same brush!

  20. Kun:

    Wow. I can see that you like the use of the word “hate”, though in your case, it might not be racist in the sense that you despise Hamilton’s “mixed race”, or even that you despise him as a man … you seem to despise the Brits equally as much, and I’m quite certain that their population is as mixed as any other on the planet these days.

    My suggestion would be to clarify your thoughts, rather than to make blanket statements about a country’s — or a RACE’s — behavior modules.

    Surely, you would not like your countrymen and/or -women to be judged in this way for your own statements, above.

    Just a thought.

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