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FIA to launch anti-racism campaign at Spanish GP

The move by the International Automobile Federation (FIA) follows abuse directed at McLaren's Lewis Hamilton, the sport's first black driver, by Spanish spectators at a recent test in Barcelona.
By HT Correspondent | Reuters, London
UPDATED ON FEB 13, 2008 08:03 PM IST

Formula One's governing body has asked teams, drivers and track owners to back a "Racing against Racism" campaign to be launched at the Spanish Grand Prix in April.

The move by the International Automobile Federation (FIA) follows abuse directed at McLaren's Lewis Hamilton, the sport's first black driver, by Spanish spectators at a recent test in Barcelona.

The same Circuit de Catalunya hosts the Spanish Grand Prix on April 27.

The FIA warned the Spanish authorities and circuits after that incident that the country's two grands prix -- the other is in Valencia in August -- could be at risk if there was any repeat.

Speaking a day after Hamilton returned to Spain to test with his Mercedes-powered team at the southern Jerez circuit, an FIA spokesman repeated the world body's determination to stamp out the problem.

"The FIA was appalled by the scenes of racist abuse targeted at Lewis Hamilton," he said on Wednesday. "Such behaviour runs counter to the fundamental principles of equality enshrined in the FIA's statutes.

"Formula One is a global, multi-cultural sport and has never encountered such scenes before and will not tolerate them in future.

GLOBAL AUDIENCE

"International motor sport can reach a huge global audience to send out positive messages of racial and sporting equality.

"We will be encouraging all those involved in motor sport to support our new campaign, from recent world champions to the next generation of potential champions at the grass roots of our sport."

A McLaren spokesman said the team applauded the initiative and would support it "in whatever way we can."

"We fervently hope that the racist behaviour of a tiny minority of so-called Formula One fans at a recent Barcelona test was an isolated incident that will not be repeated elsewhere," he added.

"As we have already made clear, McLaren has raced and tested on Spanish circuits for many years and everyone connected with the team regards Spain and the Spanish people with great affection, Lewis Hamilton included."

The FIA spokesman said the governing body would be talking also to a number of groups in other sports such as soccer "to take on board what they have learned."

Hamilton won four races last year and finished overall runner-up in a sensational rookie season. However he also became a hate figure in Spain for his rivalry at McLaren with double world champion team mate Fernando Alonso.

Spaniard Alonso has since returned to Renault.

The season starts in Melbourne on March 16.

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