Monday, February 4, 2008

Spain's F1 future on line over race row

Spain could lose its place on the Formula 1 calendar unless its motorsport authorities can convince the FIA that it will stamp out the kind of racist abuse witnessed at last weekend’s Barcelona test, has learned.

Lewis Hamilton became the focal point of insults against McLaren by disaffected Spanish spectators, who believe Fernando Alonso was treated unfairly by the British squad last year when he was team-mate to the F1 rookie.

Hamilton was reportedly jeered and booed as he made his way from the McLaren motorhome to the pit lane and offensive banners were seen in the spectator enclosures.

Track officials took steps to quell the situation, ordering barriers to be erected around the McLaren end of the paddock, deploying extra security guards in the grandstands, and clearing the area above McLaren’s garage to protect the car from debris that was being thrown at it as Hamilton left the garage.

However, the FIA has made it clear that it will not tolerate a repeat of last weekend’s events in any circumstances.

A spokesman for the governing body said: “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.” understands that such sanctions include the possibility of Spain being stripped of both its races on the world championship calendar – the long-standing fixture at Barcelona and the new European Grand Prix at Valencia.

The FIA has asked Spain’s national motorsport federation to produce a full report explaining what happened in the Barcelona test and detailing what steps will be taken to prevent a recurrence.

The governing body is determined not to allow F1 to be tainted by racism of the kind that has tarnished other sports.

Spanish football has a recent history of such problems, with its FA fined £44,750 in 2004 after England players Ashley Cole and Shaun Wright-Phillips were subjected to sickening monkey chants during a friendly match in Madrid.

That incident came just a month after Spain’s national football coach Luis Aragones was fined £2,000 for making derogatory comments about ex-Arsenal ace Thierry Henry.

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