FIA warns of sanctions over racial abuse
|By Jonathan Noble||Sunday, February 3rd 2008, 19:01 GMT|
The FIA will not tolerate a repeat of the racial abuse directed at Lewis Hamilton by Spanish fans at Barcelona this weekend, after it warned of 'sanctions' being taken if the matter is not dealt with.
Hamilton and his McLaren team found themselves on the receiving end of jeers and insults throughout the test at the Circuit de Catalunya as Spanish fans vented their feelings against them in public.
Reports in the Spanish papers suggested that some of the insults against Hamilton even had a racial element - with Marca claiming that shouts of "puto negro" (fucking black) and "negro de mierda" (black shit) were clearly heard, and that large sections of the crowd were involved.
Spanish fans believe that Fernando Alonso was treated unfairly by McLaren last year when he raced alongside Hamilton.
Circuit de Catalunya officials tried their best to respond to the situation, by putting fences up around the McLaren area in the paddock and removing abusive banners from the grandstands. Extra security guards were also put in place in the grandstands to deal with the fans.
But the FIA has made it clear that it is still unhappy with the events of the weekend, and warned that action will be taken if there is a repeat of the racial abuse in the future.
An FIA spokesman told autosport.com: "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."
The FIA's intolerance of racism is enshrined in its Statutes, with Article 1 stating: "The FIA shall refrain from manifesting racial, political or religious discrimination in the course of its activities and from taking any action in this respect."
Although there has been no official clarification of what sort of sanctions could be taken by the FIA, autosport.com understands that it may extend as far as stripping the Circuit de Catalunya of its Grand Prix.
It will now be up to Barcelona track officials to ensure that a response is taken to guarantee no repeat of the events at either tests or the Spanish Grand Prix in April.
The Circuit de Catalunya currently has a deal to host the Spanish Grand Prix until 2016, having extended its contract with F1 supremo Bernie Ecclestone last year.
Moreover, repeats of such abuse at other Spanish test tracks - including Valencia and Jerez, where the Formula One teams test repeatedly prior to the season's start - could even lead to sanctions against the Spanish motorsport authorities overall.
Speaking about the situation on Saturday, a McLaren spokesman pointed out the team's respect for Spain.
"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 spokesman said.