Racism reaches F1

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.


  1. Hardly surprising, Spain and the Spanish are still pretty racist. Just watch any time a British football team plays in Spain, and listen to all the monkey noises the crowd make every time a black player touches the ball.

  2. What I don’t understand is why these so-called fans were not evicted from the grounds?

    This sort of behaviour is unacceptable in any forum, but so far F1 had been lucky to escape any overt racism. The FIA needs to take a strong stance immediately to show this will not be tolerated. Start as you mean to go on.

  3. This is very sad and extremely disgusting. I can’t say I’m surprised since you can find this kind of insults at (unmoderated)Marca forums. I blame some spanish media(Marca and AS specially) for feeding the extreme rivality to the point has become hate. They are partially guilty but doubtfully they will assume any responsability. I hope FIA punishes whoever has the responsability of maintain the order in Montmelo’s circuit.

    In the other hand, generalizations as Minh’s one are unfair, untrue and probably hide another, more subtle, kind of racism. I’ve seen lots of spanish football matches, and racist manifestations are rare, and they’re convoluted in the insult feast that football matches had become(I’m pretty sure this isn’t a spanish-only phenomenom).

  4. Every nationality has it’s racist element, this is not a “Spanish” problem. It’s just that this particular event happened to be in Spain.

    Here in Oz we have had two disgraceful incidents recently at the Oz Open Tennis & the Cricket matches – I doubt you saw any coverage of them, but they show that unfortunately racism is not limited to any one forum (or nationality for that matter).

  5. I agree Pink Peril — this should not be an issue about Spain, because it isn’t. It is about racists wherever they are to be found. They only reason this has sprung up in Spain is because of the rivalry between Alonso and Hamilton which some people just take far too personally. But had it been a rivalry between Hamilton and anyone else, you would soon see the racists cropping up, no matter where they are from. As you say, racism is a problem in every country and shamefully you still hear of incidents from time to time in football matches in the UK.

    To bring it back to the point of my original post, some of the coverage of this has been despicable, and I have even spotted that one of the Google ads on this very page currently advertises a page on The Sun’s website with the following text:

    Lewis Hamilton in racism storm. Spanish yobs vile attack on F1 ace

    That language is inflammatory and sensationalist. The Sun is close dragging itself to the level of the vile crowd members in Barcelona. It is not as if that newspaper can legitimately take the moral high ground on this issue either. In fact, I can confidently say that if Hamilton wasn’t British, The Sun wouldn’t be mentioning this at all.

  6. Although not his fault, Alonso could bring this to an almost complete stop. How easy would it be for him to publicly denounce the practice? It would go an enormously long way to recover the hit his reputation took last year, where his petulant behavior lost him my respect.

    Spain is not alone & the U.K specialized in exporting hooliganism to the continent over the years so it’s a bit rich to cry foul now.