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

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  1. 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!

  2. 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.

  3. Steven Roy said on 5th February 2008, 14:33


    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.

  4. 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!

  5. 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.

  6. oh, well, I see you didn’t like my comments about All britains are racists too. It’s the same with me when british media say all spanish people are racists.

    And to talk about behavior before look at into your country and tell me if your hooligans have an ideal behavior.

    Hamilton is a driver extremally un-fair, he is no a victim, he is an agitator, this is my true, he always telling bad things about the others… then these are the consequences.He is the only driver not estimated for his companions. Why?

  7. Michael K said on 6th February 2008, 11:09

    Well, the main difference between Spain and other civilised countries (not only Britain) is that in other larger countries something is done against racism when it happens and this never used to happen in Spain. Now it looks like in this case there is some effort from the Spanish side, which is good to see.

  8. The “hooligans” in my country, the USA, are just as much hooligans as they are in any other country, Kun.

    The point is not that there ARE these people … the point is that none of us should allow them in our midst.

    That’s not a “country’s” job. There’s no “police state” on the planet which can stop a damned thing.


    At some point, it’s time to stop standing “by” … it’s time to stand UP. Together.

  9. Keith Collantine (@keithcollantine) said on 6th February 2008, 15:44

    I’ve had to remove some comments from here and other articles today. Can I remind everyone that personal attacks, swearing and racist remarks will be deleted or censored. See here for more information:


  10. Thank you, Keith.

    Part of why I love this site so much is that you allow honest discussion, informed discussion, and also – passionate discussion. But, in the end … it’s not about censorship as much as it is about having the ability/morality to choose what you will and will not allow in your midst.

    “Racism”, in its way, is something we all have equal responsibility to either allow or not allow in OUR midsts.

    “I’m just sayin'”, grin …

  11. I hope not to offend anyone by my opinion but racism has always been an issue in racing because racing in it’s essence imatates life. Please understand economic hardship prevents many minorities from competing in motorsports due to the sport being the most expensive form of competition on earth. Motorsports has mostly been a sport reserved for the financially priveleged.
    I hope those reading this can understand racism isn’t just about hatred or black face, It’s about competition for survival. It was through conquest that developed a system of supremacy and thereby allowing priveledge. When faced with change people feel threatened. Lewis Hamilton represents change. If F1 wants to counter racisim they should develop a program that creates diversity in their sport. Ron Dennis was F1’s diversity program even though he didn’t know it. After Lewis is gone who will be next? Nobody whants to admit it but there is a need for a diversity program in F1 due to the economical hardship minority drivers are faced with! I speak firsthand because my son just as Lewis has a tremendous talent but without financial support he will never get the chance to show it.

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