November 3, 2008


As soon as I got home, I looked at the Spanish press to see how the event was being handled here. And that’s when I got the second shock of the day: Jesus is far from alone in his views.

My attention was immediately drawn to a Spanish website. Called Pincha la Rueda de Hamilton – ‘Burst Hamilton’s Tyre’ – it not only encourages visitors to leave virtual nails on a computer mock-up of the Interlagos racetrack to stop Hamilton becoming world champion on Sunday but is full of racist, personal abuse directed at formula one’s first mixed-race driver.

The website suggests that, if enough people take part, placing either nails, pins or, weirdly, porcupines on the track, they will be able to ‘will’ punctures in Hamilton’s car just as voodoo practitioners stick pins in a doll.

Among the racist messages left by some of the 27,000-plus visitors to the site, a continuation of the vendetta begun 12 months ago by fans of Fernando Alonso who found himself last season embroiled in a battle against Hamilton for the drivers’ championship, are those dubbing Hamilton a "n*****", "monkey" and "son of a b****".

One, calling himself ‘Carillo’, tells Hamilton: "Half-breed, kill yourself in your car." Another from ‘Alberto’ says: "I hope you run over your dad in the first pitstop, Hamilton" while ‘Charly’ writes: "If you don’t get a puncture, then Massa will crash into you". Yet another, referring to Hamilton as a ‘conguito’ ( a type of chocolate sweet with racist overtones) writes: "Conguito, you are going to die". And numerous ‘nails’ have been left out near the finishing line on lap 12.

Alonso's ignominious departure at the end of the season so enraged his Spanish fans that, during a pre-season test at Barcelona’s Circuit de Catalunya in February, Hamilton was greeted by racist insults (" a black s***") and Spanish fans with blackened faces wearing Afro wigs and T-shirts embellished with the words "Hamilton’s family".

That episode led to the Fédération Internationale de l’Automobile (FIA), the sport’s world governing body, fining the circuit and instituting an anti-racism campaign. The FIA is now likely to raise the issue with the Real Federación Española de Automovilismo, having previously threatened the Spanish motorsport authority with losing the Spanish Grand Prix if it didn’t get to grips with racism. Which it clearly hasn’t.

One final note about the website. In addition to the racist comments, it also contains homophobic references ( the Spanish gay community, meanwhile, is still reacting to remarks attributed to it recently by Spain’s Queen Sofia), attacks on Ron Dennis, the McLaren team principal, and Bernie Ecclestone, the Formula One commercial rights holder and, surprisingly, one message of support for Hamilton ("I’ll love you for ever"). Not from a Spanish fan then.

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