on November 1, 2008 by in Uncategorized, Comments (0)

Spanish racists target Hamilton

SAO PAULO (Reuters) – McLaren and Formula One’s governing body condemned Spanish racists Thursday after hundreds of hate messages were posted on a ‘voodoo-style’ website targeting title favourite Lewis Hamilton.

Britain’s Hamilton, the sport’s first black driver, is poised to become the youngest Formula One champion at the age of 23 in Sunday’s season-ending Brazilian Grand Prix.

“Discrimination and prejudice can have no place in sport or society,” said an International Automobile Federation (FIA) spokesman.

“Everyone in our sport will join us in condemning these abusive and hateful comments.”

Hamilton leads Ferrari’s Brazilian Felipe Massa by seven points, meaning that the Briton need only finish fifth to take the title even if his Brazilian rival wins the race.

The FIA statement, endorsed by Hamilton’s McLaren team, followed British media reports about Spanish website pinchalaruedadehamilton.com (translated as “burst hamilton’s tyre”).

Visitors to the website are invited to place imaginary nails, pins and porcupines on a computer version of the Interlagos track where Hamilton will fight Massa for the championship.

“Hamilton cannot finish the race,” the website says. “We have to stop him however we can.”

Many of the posts are obscene, while others contain references to Hamilton’s colour, referring to him as a monkey or Conguito — a character used to promote a popular chocolate confection in Spain. Some hope for a fatal accident.

Hamilton, who entered Formula One last year, became a target in Spain after falling out with the country’s double world champion Fernando Alonso when they were team mates at British-based McLaren.

Alonso has already said he will do what he can to help Massa win the title.

Hamilton was subjected to racial abuse from spectators at a test in Barcelona in February, after which the FIA launched an anti-racism campaign.

They also warned Spanish circuits that the country’s two grands prix could be at risk if there was any repeat of the behaviour.

“McLaren was one of the earliest supporters of the FIA’s ‘Every Race’ campaign, and we support that campaign still,” said a team spokesman. “We’ve seen today’s statement from an FIA spokesman, and we can only echo it.”

(Reporting by Alan Baldwin, editing by Pritha Sarkar)