FIA threaten Spain with sanctions

Spain could lose its F1 races after Lewis Hamilton is abused.

    Lewis Hamilton was taunted by some spectators in
    Spain [GALLO/GETTY]
    Spain could lose both of its Formula One races following the racist taunting of driver Lewis Hamilton by spectators over the weekend.

    Governing body FIA has said that the racial abuse aimed at Hamilton, F1's first black driver, during testing at the Barcelona circuit could result in sanctions.

    Under FIA's statutes, punishment can include removing races from the Grand Prix calendar.

    The Spanish Grand Prix is scheduled for April 27 at the Montmelo circuit in Barcelona, and the European GP at Valencia on August 24.

    "We are going to be writing to the national sporting authorities in Spain on what happened over the weekend and off of that report we will be deciding on what steps will be taken,'' FIA said on Monday.

    "Formula One is a global, multicultural sport, it does not have scenes like this in its history and doesn't want to see scenes like this.''

    Spectators aimed abusive gestures and shouted racist abuse at the 23-year-old Hamilton, who finished second in the drivers' championship last year in his rookie season, when he moved between the McLaren motorhome and the team's garage at the Montmelo circuit on Saturday.

    A group of spectators wore wigs, dark makeup and T-shirts with the words "Hamilton's Family'' scrawled on them.

    Hamilton saddened

    The circuit said Monday it may take legal action against those spectators involved in the racist taunts.

    "The truth is that I feel somewhat sad, I am in love with this country, and especially the city of Barcelona and this circuit, which is one of my three favorites,'' Hamilton told

    "The people in Spain have always been very warm with me, and even though I imagined what might happen it has not been pleasant.''

    In Spain, Hamilton is widely blamed for Fernando Alonso's failure to clinch a third straight championship last season after the Spaniard joined McLaren from Renault.

    Alonso, who has since rejoined Renault, finished third in the drivers' standings.

    "I would like them (the Spanish fans) to understand my position,'' Hamilton said.

    "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.''

    McLaren sought to downplay the incidents.

    "McLaren has raced and tested on Spanish circuits for many years, and everyone connected with the team regards Spain and the Spanish people with great affection, Lewis included,'' the team said in a statement.


    British Sports Minister Gerry Sutcliffe condemned the "sickening'' incidents and said he would write to his Spanish counterpart to express concern.

    "Racism should not be tolerated and this is not the first time British sportsmen have been racially abused in Spain,'' he said.

    "This brings in question whether the Grand Prix should be held at this track.''

    The Spanish motorsports federation expressed "absolute repulsion'' at what it described as the actions of a few.

    "These idiots that are confusing sporting rivalry with violence should be aware that the Federation has a zero-tolerance approach to this issue,'' it said in a statement.

    Circuit staff erected barriers around the team's paddock Saturday while banners making references to Hamilton and team boss Ron Dennis were removed.

    The stands directly above McLaren's garage were cleared to ensure no debris could be thrown down when the car returned to the pit lane.

    Sunday's testing was incident free, with Hamilton stopping to sign autographs for fans and pose for pictures.

    "We controlled what happened,'' circuit director Ramon Praderas said.

    "That the public whistles or jeers seems normal to me, but what happened here was from a lack of class, something that has never happened before.''

    Extra measures

    Praderas said extra measures, increased security, more short-circuit video cameras, were already being planned for the Spanish Grand Prix.

    Praderas said he had already requested a meeting with local police authorities to prepare.

    "We could end up losing a lot (in the end) and, so, at the GP we will not tolerate any cases like the ones we saw this weekend,'' Praderas said.

    "We will carry out security measures to the extreme because it worries us so much.''

    Banners at testing in Valencia last month made remarks about Hamilton and Dennis, but did not take on a racist message.

    Those were subsequently removed by staff.

    "We've never had a problem and we take all measures possible to ensure we never will,'' Cheste circuit spokesman Pablo Pernias said.

    It is not the first time that Spanish sports fans have been accused of racist behaviour.

    England footballers were subjected to racist abuse during a friendly against Spain at Madrid in October 2004, only days after national team coach Luis Aragones made a racist remark about then-Arsenal striker Thierry Henry.

    FC Barcelona's Samuel Eto'o also attempted to leave the field after being subjected to monkey noises by Zaragoza fans during a league game in February 2005.

    SOURCE: Agencies


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