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Racism no laughing matter for Hamilton

Formula One world champion Lewis Hamilton has rejected suggestions from Grand Prix supremo Bernie Ecclestone that the racist abuse he suffered this year could be brushed off as a "joke".

india Updated: Nov 07, 2008 13:44 IST

Formula One world champion Lewis Hamilton has rejected suggestions from Grand Prix supremo Bernie Ecclestone that the racist abuse he suffered this year could be brushed off as a "joke".

Hamilton, the first black driver to win the world title, suffered a barrage of insults during pre-season testing in February at the Circuit de Catalunya, near Barcelona, from Spanish fans wearing wigs and dark make-up as well as T-shirts branded with the words 'Hamilton's Family'.

It prompted the FIA, motorsport's world governing body, to launch an anti-racism campaign.

Ecclestone, however, insisted what had happened in Spain was nothing more than a case of partisan fans barracking a rival of one their national heroes, in this case Fernando Alonso.

However, Hamilton said on Thursday: "I didn't see it as a joke. It's something that happened but it is in the past," he said.

"What's more important to me is that I had a lot of support, especially from UK fans," added the 23-year-old Briton, who last weekend became Formula One's youngest world champion.

"As long as I have my country behind me it makes me very proud. It makes me very proud to see my fellow countrymen holding up the flag," explained Hamilton, whose fifth-place finish at the Brazilian Grand Prix saw him take the title from race-winner and local favourite Felipe Massa by just one point.