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.