Hamilton suffers racist abuse by Spanish fans

The sport's governing body FIA stepped in yesterday after Lewis Hamilton suffered racist abuse from Spanish fans during a test session at the Circuit de Catalunya in Barcelona on Saturday.

The warring 2007 McLaren team-mates, Hamilton and Fernando Alonso, may have agreed to go their own ways with no hard feelings, the former staying with the team and the latter returning to Renault, but the 23-year-old Briton was booed and insulted by supporters whenever he made his way to the pits. The daily sports paper Marca reported that shouts of "puto negro" (black bastard) and "negro de mierda" (black shit) were clearly heard.

Hamilton is the first Afro-Caribbean driver to make his mark in Formula One, and to win races. Sources within the team said that he took the abuse in his stride as he set the fastest time. He has always played down his colour, which until now has been his least remarked-upon attribute. Formula One, which can often be an insular and bigoted sport, has accepted him without blinking.

Speaking in 2006, while he was dominating the GP2 championship, he was much more conscious of his progression tothe top echelon than his growing status as a racial role model.

"That's an issue for the media," he said. "I don't really take much notice of the idea of being a ground-breaker. I feel normal, I don't feel any different to the others drivers apart from having a certain level of confidence in what I can do. I've got an ambition, and that's to get to Formula One.

"If anything, I think my colour's a positive, and hopefully in the future it can open doors for other cultures. It's great to see Narain Karthikeyan, and the Japanese drivers. It doesn't have to be a white-dominated sport, it can be open to all of us. The sooner that happens, the better it is for F1."

Yesterday, a statement from McLaren which clearly sought to play down the incident, simply said: "Vodafone McLaren Mercedes have 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 FIA took a harder line and is likely to levy a heavy financial penalty if there is a recurrence. A spokesman said yesterday: "The FIA is surprised and disappointed at the abuse directed at Lewis Hamilton. Abuse of this kind is a clear breach of the principles enshrined in the FIA statutes and any repetition will result in serious sanctions." Spain has two grands prix this year, in Barcelona and Valencia.

Circuit director Ramon Pradera reportedly ordered fences to be put up around the McLaren garage and removal of banners opposite the team's base. He reminded fans of their obligations. "We would like to make a plea to them to behave correctly, no type of offensive behaviour can be tolerated," he said.

Hamilton has become a hate figure to some Spaniards because of the intensity of his rivalry with Alonso, whom he challenged on even terms throughout a gripping 2007 season despite his rookie statuswhile Alonso was the reigning world champion. They each finished the season with 109 points and four victories, but Hamilton got the nod for second place behind title winner Kimi Raikkonen with five second places to Alonso's four. Incidents of racism have been rife in Spanish sport recently years, particularly in football.

Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Daily Quiz
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Career Services

Day In a Page

Abuse - and the hell that came afterwards

Abuse - and the hell that follows

James Rhodes on the extraordinary legal battle to publish his memoir
Why we need a 'tranquility map' of England, according to campaigners

It's oh so quiet!

The case for a 'tranquility map' of England
'Timeless fashion': It may be a paradox, but the industry loves it

'Timeless fashion'

It may be a paradox, but the industry loves it
If the West needs a bridge to the 'moderates' inside Isis, maybe we could have done with Osama bin Laden staying alive after all

Could have done with Osama bin Laden staying alive?

Robert Fisk on the Fountainheads of World Evil in 2011 - and 2015
New exhibition celebrates the evolution of swimwear

Evolution of swimwear

From bathing dresses in the twenties to modern bikinis
Sun, sex and an anthropological study: One British academic's summer of hell in Magaluf

Sun, sex and an anthropological study

One academic’s summer of hell in Magaluf
From Shakespeare to Rising Damp... to Vicious

Frances de la Tour's 50-year triumph

'Rising Damp' brought De la Tour such recognition that she could be forgiven if she'd never been able to move on. But at 70, she continues to flourish - and to beguile
'That Whitsun, I was late getting away...'

Ian McMillan on the Whitsun Weddings

This weekend is Whitsun, and while the festival may no longer resonate, Larkin's best-loved poem, lives on - along with the train journey at the heart of it
Kathryn Williams explores the works and influences of Sylvia Plath in a new light

Songs from the bell jar

Kathryn Williams explores the works and influences of Sylvia Plath
How one man's day in high heels showed him that Cannes must change its 'no flats' policy

One man's day in high heels

...showed him that Cannes must change its 'flats' policy
Is a quiet crusade to reform executive pay bearing fruit?

Is a quiet crusade to reform executive pay bearing fruit?

Dominic Rossi of Fidelity says his pressure on business to control rewards is working. But why aren’t other fund managers helping?
The King David Hotel gives precious work to Palestinians - unless peace talks are on

King David Hotel: Palestinians not included

The King David is special to Jerusalem. Nick Kochan checked in and discovered it has some special arrangements, too
More people moving from Australia to New Zealand than in the other direction for first time in 24 years

End of the Aussie brain drain

More people moving from Australia to New Zealand than in the other direction for first time in 24 years
Meditation is touted as a cure for mental instability but can it actually be bad for you?

Can meditation be bad for you?

Researching a mass murder, Dr Miguel Farias discovered that, far from bringing inner peace, meditation can leave devotees in pieces
Eurovision 2015: Australians will be cheering on their first-ever entrant this Saturday

Australia's first-ever Eurovision entrant

Australia, a nation of kitsch-worshippers, has always loved the Eurovision Song Contest. Maggie Alderson says it'll fit in fine