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Tuesday, February 5, 2008

Spain could lose F1 races due to racist taunting of Lewis Hamilton over weekend!

Associated Press

Updated: February 4, 2008, 2:35 PM ET

MADRID, Spain -- Spain could lose both its Formula One races following the racist taunting of driver Lewis Hamilton by spectators.

The sport's ruling body said Monday the abuse aimed at F1's first black driver during weekend testing at the Barcelona circuit might result in sanctions. Punishment could lead to the removal of two races from the Grand Prix calendar -- the Spanish Grand Prix on April 27 in Barcelona and the European GP on Aug. 24 at Valencia.

FIA, the governing organization, said it will write to Spanish authorities to learn what happened before making a decision.

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

Hamilton finished second in the drivers' championship last year in his rookie season. Spectators gestured and shouted racist abuse at the 23-year-old driver when he moved between the McLaren motor home 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. The circuit said Monday it may take legal action against 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."

Last season, Fernando Alonso of Spain failed to clinch a third straight championship after he joined McLaren from Renault. Alonso finished third in the drivers' standings, while rookie teammate Hamilton was second behind winner Kimi Raikkonen of Ferrari. Alonso rejoined Renault this season.

"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 said "everyone connected with the team regards Spain and the Spanish people with great affection, Lewis included."

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

"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 motor sports federation added: "These idiots that are confusing sporting rivalry with violence should be aware that the federation has a zero-tolerance approach to this issue."

Sunday's testing was incident free, with Hamilton stopping to sign autographs for fans and pose for pictures. Circuit director Ramon Praderas said greater security was planned for the Spanish Grand Prix.

In 2004, England soccer players were subjected to racist abuse during an exhibition game in Madrid, days after national coach Luis Aragones made a racist remark about then-Arsenal striker Thierry Henry. In 2005, FC Barcelona's Samuel Eto'o attempted to leave the field after being subjected to monkey noises by Zaragoza fans.

Copyright 2008 by The Associated Press



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