Archive: Jerez

It is a given that I love motorsport. But there is also no doubting that my interest is primarily in cars, especially single-seaters. Over the past ten or so years I have always kept an eye on MotoGP, but it is a relationship that blows hot and cold.

Last year in particular was a pretty poor year for MotoGP in my view. It was all too predictable. Even the prospect of someone other than Valentino Rossi winning the World Championship was not enough to reel me in. The reality was that Rossi’s mid-season injury made the championship a shoo-in for Jorge Lorenzo.

It had all just become a bit boring and predictable. But I hadn’t even realised that was the problem — until this year.

2011′s big MotoGP shakeup

MotoGP in 2011 has a very different feel to it. The pecking order is very definitely different. Valentino Rossi has switched to the temperamental Ducati bike. Casey Stoner has moved to Honda, who have stepped up to the plate. Meanwhile, Jorge Lorenzo has become the definitive team leader at Yamaha. This has all given MotoGP a fresher feel.

Last weekend’s MotoGP race at Jerez was an absolute sizzler that had it all. In damp conditions, there was more action in that race than the whole of last season. Everything that MotoGP has been lacking recently was here.

An amazing race

Valentino Rossi, struggling on his Ducati, started from the middle of the grid, and slowly worked his way up. Out front, Stoner was struggling more than form would suggest.

Sensationally, Marco Simoncelli took the lead on the satellite Gresini Honda. The fancied youngster has a great record from the more junior categories, but up to this point his best race finish had been fourth. I am a Simoncelli fan, and I was personally getting quite excited at the prospect of a race victory for him.

This has got to be one of the best pics I've seen for a ... on Twitpic

Stoner had dropped to second, and Rossi was up to third. In an audacious move, Rossi overtook Stoner — but fell off his bike, taking out Stoner in the process. Rossi rode on, but needless to say, Stoner was not too impressed.

This was a moment of high drama that only the likes of Rossi can produce. I probably haven’t been so excited about a moment of MotoGP since Rossi’s incredible last-corner move on Lorenzo at Catalunya in 2009.

From there it should have been easy for Simoncelli, but he fell off his bike of his own accord in the damp conditions.

This allowed Lorenzo, who had been unspectacular for the whole race up to this point, to breeze by into the lead. The race became a Lorenzo masterclass. A study in precise riding — reaching the edge while never exceeding it.

It could even have been a Yamaha 1-2, as Ben Spies was also able to capitalise on all the mayhem, as well as passing Dani Pedrosa, to run in second. That was until he, too, fell off his bike. Colin Edwards was then running in third when he beached it in the gravel.

All the while, there were developing issues with Pedrosa’s pace dropping off as he continues to struggle with arm issues from a crash at Motegi last year. It was the opposite story for Rossi, who, despite the big accident earlier on in the race, managed to fight his way back up to fifth again.

I concur with Pat Wotton. If you haven’t seen this race, you really ought to watch it. It is up on iPlayer.

MotoGP has all the ingredients for great racing

I loved the race not just because of the madness or the wet weather. I was hooked even before riders started falling off left, right and centre.

What struck me was that I was watching racing. It wasn’t a procession by any stretch. But nor was it an overload of devalued overtaking that bike racing sometimes seems like to me.

I saw riders fade in and out of contention. They slipped away because of fatigue. They fought through in inspired bursts. They defied the odds. They raced tactically, and with no mandatory pitstops in sight.

And there was no need for an “overtaking working group” to come up with half-baked and ill thought-through ideas like F1′s DRS. There was no contrived nonsense about tyre compounds. No flexi-wing controversies. No stewards’ decisions.

I love Formula 1. But right now it looks like MotoGP has the right recipe for racing excitement. And what is most promising about it all is that it is not contrived. It is so free of gimmicks. It is pure racing, and I am looking forward to taking it all in this year.

Because even when everyone was getting excited about the magical combination of Casey Stoner and Honda dominating rather than the Yamaha routs we had become accustomed to, Jerez showed that the reality is much more complicated than that — and more exciting too.

The Hungarian Grand Prix lived up to its reputation for being a boring circuit in terms of overtaking, but always delivering action of some sort. Hungaroring may be dull as a spectacle, but there is never a shortage of talking points.

This year’s was provided by Michael Schumacher. His already infamous move to push Rubens Barrichello towards the pit wall while both were travelling at top speeds was one of the most vicious I have ever seen. I was yelling while it was happening.

I think I will forever vividly remember watching the onboard shot from Rubens Barrichello’s car live. I was cheering him on as he lined up to overtake Michael Schumacher. Then I was horrified when I realised what Schumacher was doing.

Not that it is much of a surprise. It is well known that Michael Schumacher is capable more than anyone else of pulling a dirty move out of his lowest drawer. His famous tainted legacy: Why does driver who is so good — a seven time World Champion no less — feel the need to pull off these extreme moves.

In a way, what he did to Barrichello in Hungary this year was worse than anything we have seen from him before. When he crashed into Damon Hill in 1994 it was to win the championship. When he crashed into Jacques Villeneuve in 1997 it was a last-ditch attempt to win the championship. When he parked his car at Rascasse in 2006 he was a championship contender. This? A futile fight for 10th position in a nothing year for him.

By now everyone knows that 2010 has not been the comeback Michael Schumacher was hoping for. In his recent interviews he has stated that he is only interested in winning championships. Scrapping away in the midfield is not interesting to him. He doesn’t like racing; he is only interested in winning.

I have always felt that his wheel-to-wheel abilities are actually quite poor. Schumacher’s speed cannot be in doubt — when he is out in front. But when he is on the back foot, he switches into panic mode. All of his most notorious moves have been snap decisions that he has made in a moment when he has suddenly been put under pressure. He is a quick driver. Unfortunately this means he often makes a move before he has engaged his brain.

This is what we have seen this year. Not just in Hungary, but also in Canada. He noticeably struggled in Montreal. He had a scrappy race and made a few panic moves, including a chop across Felipe Massa.

Unfortunately, an uncompetitive Michael Schumacher is no less ruthless. If anything, he is worse when he is on the back foot. Is it really the done thing to desperately try to push someone into the pit wall for the sake of one point?

One perspective is that this is good, hard racing. I also liked the viewpoint put forward by Axis of Oversteer — that this is the manifestation of genuine bad blood between two drivers. Schumacher and Barrichello have a lot of history, and it’s easy to imagine that this was all in the minds of both drivers.

But full credit to Rubens Barrichello for completing the move. He showed great bravery on the track, and immense integrity off the track. Barrichello’s behaviour after the race was exemplary. Meanwhile, Michael Schumacher complained that Barrichello is a whiner.

It is said that at Spa in 1998, Michael Schumacher stormed up to David Coulthard and accused him of “trying to fucking kill me”. I think Barrichello had cause to do a lot more than merely “whine”.

Michael Schumacher knows that in order to be successful you have to be ruthless, and at times aggressive. He is by no means the only aggressive driver on the grid. Mark Webber stands out. In fact, Webber was involved in quite a similar incident at Fuji in 2008 with Felipe Massa. But in this instance, Webber’s move across the track was made much earlier, much more gradually, and he did not push Massa nearly as far.

As such, Webber is respected as an aggressive driver, but also one who speaks about on-track safety with authority. As major player in the Grand Prix Drivers’ Association, Mark Webber has made it his business to care about safety. This is the beauty of Mark Webber — he pushes it, but he knows exactly where the limit is, then stops. The problem Schumacher has is that he doesn’t know where the line is drawn.

Michael Schumacher is a hugely successful driver that many look up to as a role model. I would hate to think that he finds these sorts of dangerous manoeuvres acceptable. I am surprised that he did not receive a disqualification. He should also have received at least a one race ban. I bet if, say, Vitaly Petrov tried the same thing, he’d be sitting out the next few races.

The next race is in Belgium — where Schumacher’s fans turn out in force. The race after that is Monza, where the fans have quite a few fond memories of Schumacher as well. I would hate to think it is the case, but you would almost think the powers-that-be had one eye on the purse strings and the PR value of having Schumacher continuing racing — even though he is a known danger.

The final part of the factory tour was the chance to see the simulator. It is an impressive piece of kit. The driver sits in a cockpit, surrounded by a massive screen that curves round to take up his entire field of vision.

Little wonder it has been known to induce sickness. Drivers are advised that they may want to close eyes if they spin in order to avoid reacquainting themselves with their lunch. Apparently drivers have been known to be sick all over the place while driving the simulator. Come to think of it, I’m slightly suspicious because I remember that the cleaner was leaving the room just as we were entering it. We were told, though, that Kazuki Nakajima is amazing in the simulator and can spend all day in it with no ill effects.

The circuit models are said to be very accurate indeed, albeit some more accurate than others. For instance, someone else has exclusive rights to the best map of the Nürburgring. The maps are constructed using lasers. A van drives slowly around the circuit emitting laser beams at multiple angles, creating a map of millions of dots. This means that every bump on the circuit is accounted for.

An aerial image of the circuit is then overlaid on top of these dots to create the environment. But if you look at the circuit, some of the landmarks are not very accurately reproduced. In fact, some of it looks like bad virtual reality graphics. The idea is to reduce any confusion that might be caused by too many cues. If they don’t think something will give a driver an accurate cue, they won’t implement it.

Some teams have more sophisticated simulators. In some simulators the car will be on a moving platform to give the impression of movement — something clearly lacking from the still Williams cockpit. It is said that some simulators even have belts that tighten up to give you some impression of g-forces. Williams shun such devices, which they regard as off-putting.

I have to confess that I have been slightly sceptical about the Williams simulator in the past. McLaren’s is said to be amazing, but it is jealously kept under wraps from outsiders. Williams have no such qualms however. It is the only simulator that I have seen on television. See, for instance, this ITV video with Mark Blundell and this BBC video.

We were lucky enough to be in the room when occasional Williams tester Daniel Clos was driving it. He was there to acquaint himself with the Hungaroring in preparation for the GP2 races which were being held just a few days later. I have to say he didn’t look very good while we were there, and he even spun at one point. But those must have been his very first laps round the circuit and of course I am in no position to pass comment. In the real thing, he finished 11th in both races.

It is presumably a service that Williams are happy to offer young drivers in the hope of developing them into a Formula 1 star of the future. Whether Daniel Clos is one remains to be seen. But surely on his way to F1 stardom is another Williams tester, Nico Hülkenberg. Simulator Engineer Jeff Calam is adamant that the simulator is a worthwhile piece of equipment to invest in, pointing at Hülkenberg’s highly impressive GP2 results at circuits he hasn’t driven at before. This fact puts to bed my doubts about the quality of the Williams simulator.

Once the factory tour was over, we had a Q&A with Sam Michael. He was largely very open in his responses, and came across very well to me. I was impressed that he took the time out of his schedule to talk to a bunch of bloggers. You can hear audio of the Q&A session over at Brits on Pole once again.

After that, we went for a tour of the fabulous Williams museum. Here, we were expertly guided by Scott Garrett from Synergy, the company that arranged our visit on behalf of Philips. Although he now works for Synergy, he was previously Head of Marketing at Williams and now has links with a number of F1 teams. This makes him a highly knowledgeable speaker on Formula 1, and Williams in particular. It was a real pleasure to have this sort of insight.

For obvious reasons, photography was strictly forbidden in the factory, but we were free to take as many photographs as we wanted in the museum. And boy did we take the opportunity!

Early Williams cars The museum is impressive, with a range of cars from the full history of the Williams team’s existence. The first car you see is Alan Jones’s FW06 with its Ford Cosworth engine peering out the back. Cars are displayed, more or less a car for every year, right up to 2007′s FW29 — the very car that the competition winner will be driving.

All-in-all, the museum contains over forty cars. We are told that Frank Williams is a hoarder. The team still owns 106 chassis, while it only makes around six per year. Most of these cars are well looked after and can theoretically still be driven. The main exception is the Honda-powered cars, because they asked for the engines back!

For the most part, the cars are laid out in chronological order, and as you make your way through the museum videos are played telling us about Williams during the period of the cars in the vicinity. The relevant cars are lit up while the video is playing.

Unfortunately, this means that they are plunged into darkness once the video is finished, and you are supposed to move along to the next section. It is a pretty clever device to get us to keep moving and get rid of us quickly, but quite annoying for those of us who would have liked to have done it at our own pace. One person sarcastically remarked under his breath, “you have a lot of great cars, then put them in the dark.” It is for this reason that the lighting is not very good in some of the photographs.

Despite the chronological layout of the museum, there is still a fairly clear centrepiece. Two cars in particular are displayed on a higher plinth — the FW18 and the FW19, the team’s latest two championship-winning cars from 1996 and 1997 driven by Damon Hill and Jacques Villeneuve.

FW19 and FW18

A great moment of F1 geekery occurred when Mr Garrett pointed out that the FW19 on display is the actual car which Michael Schumacher famously crashed into at Jerez in 1997. Everyone went “oooh” and inquisitively gathered to look at this particularly historic Williams F1 car. The damage is still evident. I had heard that Patrick Head liked the car to be displayed with the tyre mark still there, but it has since been restored and now just looks like a couple of holes have been punched in the corner of the sidepod.

“We never got on very well with Michael Schumacher,” Scott Garrett noted, just in case we didn’t get the clue. This prompted a cheeky question from someone else, “How did you get on with Ralf?”

There is a notable omission. The most distinctive F1 car in the team’s history, the FW26 with the “walrus nose” is nowhere to be seen. It is perhaps not the team’s proudest design.

One unusual design does proudly feature though. Williams were never able to race with their FW08B six-wheeler. It was banned by the FIA before the season started over fears that it would be too dominant.

FW08B - the unraced Williams six-wheeler

Keke Rosberg's record-breaking FW10 Go up the stairs, and you will see two cars that are clearly very special to the team. One is Ayrton Senna’s test car from 1994. The other is the record-breaking FW10, in which Keke Rosberg was the first person ever to set a lap at a speed of 160mph in 1985. The record was set at Silverstone and remarkably stayed in place until 2002!

All-in-all, it was an absolutely fantastic day. Although Williams are not among my favourite teams, they have got to be admired for being so accommodating to us. If you ever get the chance to attend such an event, I would highly recommend it. A massive thank you to those who organised it and invited me.

Below is the full slideshow of photographs from my visit to Williams.

Who is the most controversial man in F1? Is it Bernie Ecclestone with his bizarre comments about Hitler and Jewish black female drivers? Is it Max Mosley with his political posturing and Nazi German prisoner themed sex orgies? Nope — it’s Michael Schumacher.

When it was announced that Michael Schumacher was preparing to replace Felipe Massa at Ferrari while the Brazilian convalesces, the great ideological gulf among F1 fans suddenly re-emerged. I can’t remember seeing such strong reactions on any issue about any subject, let alone F1.

For some people, Michael Schumacher might as well be Jesus. You could produce video evidence of him killing a kitten and he would still be the greatest man on earth. Anyone who says otherwise doesn’t appreciate genius when they see it?

For others, there is nothing that can redeem Michael Schumacher. He is a serial cheat whose team-mates were all hamstrung and whose seven World Drivers’ Championships are among the least deserving ever awarded. You must surely see that he is the most evil man on earth?

My view is slightly more nuanced. He was a bit of both. His record speaks for itself, and he must take credit especially for his ability to build a team around him. But I hated the way he went about racing.

The Edge of Greatness cover Incidentally, for a fair-minded assessment of Michael Schumacher, I highly recommend James Allen’s book, The Edge of Greatness. I always thought James Allen as a commentator was too biased in favour of Schumacher, but his book displays a very measured and nuanced assessment of his qualities as a driver, and his failings as a sportsperson.

I must come straight out and say that I have never been a fan of Michael Schumacher. Never. And for me, his talent was tainted by his tendency to bend the rules whenever he had the slightest opportunity.

I don’t even rate him much as a racer. For me, his wheel-to-wheel skills were rather poor, and he disguised this by being overly aggressive. That was why he often panicked under pressure, such as at Jerez in 1997. If he found himself in the midfield, he sometimes had very clumsy races indeed — his botched move on Takuma Sato at Suzuka in 2003 springs to mind.

Schumacher was famous for relying on Ross Brawn strategies to “overtake in the pitlane” rather than try to make a genuine overtaking move. I highly doubt that Schumacher would have won as many Championships if refuelling wasn’t legal. I won’t lie: 2000–2004 were my least favourite years of watching F1 since I first fell in love with the sport in the mid-1990s.

Since Schumacher left F1 I do feel as though I have started to enjoy F1 a lot more. Even though some of the drivers are not perfect in terms of their adherence to the rules or their spirit of fair competition, it feels a lot less like a dark cloud such as Rascassegate will come rumbling over the hills at any moment.

Now, of course, he is back in F1 and it has changed again. It amuses me greatly that even weeks before his first grand prix back is due to start, he already sought ways to cheat, to unfairly gain an advantage over his competitors. It says it all about him in one action.

Williams are not my favourite team either, but they were totally right to block this blatant infringement of the rules. Just a couple of weeks before, Toro Rosso’s new driver Jaime Alguersuari was refused a similar request, and he did a perfectly adequate job. Quite why a supposedly great 7 times World Champion needs to practice so much is not clear to me.

Ferrari’s enormously arrogant statement in retaliation against the blocked request sums up why I can’t stand the team so much. Apparently they think the red rule should still exist. What happened to that spirit of cooperation they were supposedly so keen on? I guess now that the Concorde Agreement is signed, cordial relations are not so important any more.

It is clear that the testing rules need amending. I have been saying so for a long time now. But until a new set of rules are agreed upon, everyone needs to adhere to them, otherwise you may as well just rip the rulebook up (some would argue Ferrari have ripped up the rulebook and written their own anyway).

This is all a sign that Michael Schumacher does not intend to simply go through the motions. I had wondered quite what was in this comeback for Schumacher. I saw easily why Ferrari were interested. But what could possibly have motivated Schumacher?

After all, he potentially has so much to lose. With his wife and kids — and we know his wife is concerned because he says he has made an “arrangement” with her that health is the top priority — he surely doesn’t want to be doing something so dangerous. He cannot possibly need the money, and he certainly doesn’t have anything else to prove (unless he wants somehow to prove that he can be a good sportsperson, but that opportunity has already been shot).

He also risks being embarrassed because of his waning ability. At 40, he is the oldest driver to compete in F1 since Nigel Mansell in 1995, and let us not forget that Mansell’s last period as an F1 driver was not exactly a roaring success. And after two and a half years out of competitive grand prix racing, there is every chance that he will be rusty during his forthcoming races.

But now we know what motivates him — it is his sheer, ruthless competitiveness. He may have initially agreed out of “loyalty” to Ferrari, but once he’s a driver again he is up to the same old tricks, looking for the slightest advantage wherever it may come from.

Of course, many would say that this is what sets him apart from everyone else.

It has to be said, unintended consequences are never far away in the world of F1 rule changes. For just one example, take a look at how quickly aerodynamic flick-ups have resurfaced, despite their supposed banning. Skate fins? What on earth?

Now we are presented with a number of oddities that have come about as a result of this season’s new testing restrictions. In-season testing is banned completely. Each team is limited to 15,000km, but according to James Allen it looks as though no teams will top 10,000km, because this year’s testing events have been so heavily disrupted. Teams that go to Portugal and Spain get relentlessly rained on. Those that go to Bahrain are treated to sandstorms.

Moreover, what little testing time there is has been eaten into by the need to test 2010-spec tyres. The bans in refuelling and tyre warmers coming into effect next season will put different demands on the tyres. As such, Bridgestone need to get data so that they don’t end up barking up the wrong tree as they develop the new tyres. But with no opportunity to do this later on in the season, some teams (McLaren and BMW) have had to sacrifice some time from their already tight pre-season test schedule.

Now McLaren’s test driver Pedro de la Rosa has expressed concerns that the lack of test time is actually dangerous for reserve drivers. Should a reserve have to come in for some reason, he will be thrown into the deep end, straight into the action having had little experience of the car. That would be bad enough in a normal year, but with the radical rule changes that have come into force this season you can expect out-of-practice drivers to be even rustier.

Now it is becoming obvious that the testing restrictions are damaging the careers of young drivers. All winter, it had looked as though Rubens Barrichello’s chances of retaining his seat at Honda / Brawn were close to zero. Reading some reports, you’d believe that Bruno Senna was practically a shoo-in.

Now it looks as though Barrichello has been given the nod, leaving Senna with nowhere to go. The ever-excellent Grandprix.com trailed the possibility a few days ago, noting that “Barrichello is a better bet [than Senna] as his experience will be useful in a year when there is little opportunity for young drivers to learn how to drive F1 cars.”

From this perspective, it looks like Honda / Brawn have made the right decision here. Moreover, Barrichello outperformed Button last season, and it would have been a real shame if Barrichello’s career ended with a snub. Mind you, there is the risk that Barrichello will have a David Coulthard-style final season of doom, and we wouldn’t really want that.

But what now for Bruno Senna? Holding out for an F1 seat, he has more or less ruled out staying in GP2 for a third season. Indeed, it is difficult to see what he could achieve with another year in GP2. Drivers who spend too long in a category like GP2 tend to have their potential stunted.

In a sense, this is a predicament which is yet another symptom of the serial mismanagement at Honda which has deteriorated this winter to extreme levels for obvious reasons. Senna sounds pretty frustrated over this situation, and wouldn’t you be?

But any other year it would be no big deal. Senna could sign as a test driver for one year, as countless other drivers have done before, and spend the season racking up the miles on the test track in preparation for his first full season. And should he needed to replace another driver mid-season, he would have experience required of him.

Failing that, he could have gone on to make a decent career as a test driver. It may not have the glamour of a race role, and you can bet your bottom dollar that all test drivers yearn to race. But it is, at least, a decent income earned from driving cars — and they can always hope. People like Luca Badoer, Marc Gené, Anthony Davidson, Alexander Wurz and, yes, Pedro de la Rosa, have all made a decent living out of testing F1 cars. Felipe Massa started out at Ferrari as a test driver, and today he challenges for Championships.

Now what? All Bruno Senna can do is twiddle his thumbs. He can always suffer the humiliation of going back cap in hand to a GP2 seat. But this could backfire on him, and all the best seats have already been filled.

Could this be one reason why there is only going to be one rookie this season? Sébastien Buemi is the only newcomer to F1 this season, but he has done plenty of testing for the Red Bull teams and he is filling a vacancy that David Coulthard voluntarily left behind.

Remember when everyone was certain that Renault were not going to re-sign Nelsinho Piquet? Then, out of nowhere, they signed him for another season. Is that because, for all his faults, he at least has experience that the likes of Romain Grosjean and Lucas Di Grassi now cannot hope to attain?

Let us not forget another major FIA-instituted change for 2009, which is yet another instance revealing the lack of joined-up thinking inside the FIA. This season sees the inauguration of Max Mosley’s Formula Two project. Remember, this new feeder series was supposedly invented specifically to make it easier for young drivers to reach F1.

Well, it’s all very well adding yet another “second-top” rung in an already-cluttered world that contains GP2, A1GP and World Series by Renault among others. But the top rung now has a fundamental crack that will cause the ladder collapse when a driver reaches it, sending him — and his career — crashing to the floor.

There might be an allowance in F1 for “young driver training”, but this is no more than a fig leaf. A “young driver” is someone who has not tested on more than four days in the past 24 months. How is a young driver supposed to progress with such scant “training”?

Max Mosley likes to use F2 to make out that he is opening doors for young drivers. The reality is that this door leads drivers up the garden path. There have seldom, if ever, been as many feeder series as there are today. An F1 team can take their pick from 20+ GP2 drivers, countless A1GP drivers, anyone from WSR who takes their fancy and goodness knows how many F3 drivers. F2 isn’t needed, especially now that young drivers will find the welcome mat at F1′s door cruelly swiped from their feet.

I have written before about the dangerously partisan, disgracefully nationalistic coverage of Formula 1. There is only one logical conclusion to taking a nationalistic angle in coverage of sports that have nothing to do with nationality.

Some British media outlets are guilty of putting an anti-Spanish angle into elements of their F1 coverage last year. It reached an all-time low when some papers insinuated that McLaren’s Spanish drivers Fernando Alonso and Pedro de la Rosa were “at the centre” of the Stepneygate scandal. This completely ignored the fact that the real protagonists of the scandal — Nigel Stepney and Mike Coughlan — are both British!

Now Pitpass is reporting that the partisan crowd during testing in Spain has taken a nastier turn:

Yesterday, according [to] the Spanish newspaper Marca, shouts of “puto negro” (fucking black) and “negro de mierda” (black shit) were clearly heard, and that large sections of the crowd were involved.

Pitpass also has photographs of a group of people tastelessly “blacking up”, wearing t-shirts bearing the words “Hamilton’s Familly [sic]”. This is absolutely disgusting. A lot of people find it far too easy to pluck out an accusation of racism whenever it is suggested that Hamilton might not be the messiah, but there can be no doubt about the nature of these people’s demonstrations.

The article also notes that “such insidious behaviour has never been part of Formula One” — although a cynic could say that this was because of the paucity of nonwhite drivers in F1 historically.

There have been growing concerns about the nature of the “supporters” who have been turning up to test sessions in Valencia, Barcelona and Jerez. For instance, yesterday Keith Collantine wrote:

But what I do find odd is that there are some Alonso fans who got up this morning, and decided to make a banner because they were going to an F1 test. But instead of making a banner supporting Alonso, they made one attacking Hamilton.

There are a billion reasons to like F1. I don’t like the thought that some people who buy Grand Prix tickets are in it for the hate.

There have also been reports that some people have been throwing missiles at the McLaren cars. This is totally unacceptable in Formula 1 for obvious reasons.

I don’t necessarily mind some of the more humorous anti-Hamilton banners that have been on display. My personal favourite read “Lewis, have you learnt to pee by yourself, or does daddy still help you?” — mocking the overbearing presence of Lewis Hamilton’s father which has seen Anthony Hamilton become a minor celebrity in his own right.

But there is a difference between this kind of teasing and the kind of outright racism that is beginning to be reported. Pitpass calls on Fernando Alonso “to publicly distance himself from these so-called fans”. But this isn’t Fernando Alonso’s fault. He has nothing to do with these racists, and has never spoken about Hamilton in terms of his race.

But the media should immediately stop its disgustingly debased coverage of Formula 1 — in the UK as well as in Spain.