Motor racing star Lewis Hamilton has been targeted by racist abuse online after winning the British Grand Prix over the weekend.
The seven-times world champion celebrated a record eighth British Grand Prix victory on Sunday at Silverstone after fighting back from a 10-second penalty for a first-lap collision that ended up with title rival Max Verstappen in hospital.
Hamilton, 36, was targeted online hours after the victory, with racist messages including monkey emojis sent as replies to a post by his Mercedes team on Instagram.
The abuse came amid widespread calls for social media firms to take firmer action on policing abuse on their platforms following a spate of incidents involving racist abuse of high-profile sporting figures in recent weeks.
In a joint statement, Mercedes, Formula One and motorsports governing body FIA condemned the abuse of Hamilton “in the strongest possible terms” and sought punishment for those guilty.
“These people have no place in our sport and we urge that those responsible should be held accountable for their actions,” the statement read.
“Formula One, the FIA, the drivers and teams are working to build a more diverse and inclusive sport and such unacceptable instances of online abuse must be highlighted and eliminated.”
Joint statement from Formula 1, the FIA and the Mercedes-AMG Petronas F1 Team:
During, and after, yesterday’s British Grand Prix, Lewis Hamilton was subjected to multiple instances of racist abuse on social media following an in-race collision.
— F1 Media (@F1Media) July 19, 2021
Social media giant Facebook said on Monday that it had removed several comments directed at Hamilton on Instagram.
“The racist abuse directed at Hamilton during and after the British Grand Prix is unacceptable and we’ve removed a number of comments from Instagram,” a spokesperson for Facebook, which owns Instagram, said in a statement.
Hamilton is the only Black driver in Formula One.
He has been a vocal advocate for social justice and is a supporter of the Black Lives Matter movement.
He said before the race that he was inspired by the response from English football players to racist abuse after several Black stars were targeted online following the national team’s penalty shoot-out defeat to Italy in the European Championship final on July 11.
British Prime Minister Boris Johnson met social media firms last week to ask them to step up the fight against online hate in the wake of the abuse, which saw Marcus Rashford, Jadon Sancho and Bukayo Saka targeted.
But Johnson and other ministers have been accused of hypocrisy for not condemning those who booed the players at the start of the tournament for their “taking the knee” anti-racism protest.
The racial abuse directed at the trio of English players also prompted a police investigation and country-wide condemnation.