Monday, February 11, 2008

Mosley: Lewis first targeted last year

Max Mosley has vowed that the FIA will do everything it can to stamp out racism in Formula 1, while also revealing that Lewis Hamilton had first been targeted by Spanish fans in China last year.

The images of sections of spectators abusing the McLaren driver during Barcelona testing earlier this month caused outrage in the UK, leading some to call for Spain’s two races to be axed if there is a repeat of the taunting.

In an interview with the Sunday Times, Mosley said the problem should be possible to eradicate quickly if indeed only a minority of fans are involved – but has warned the FIA will impose heavy sanctions if there is a repeat.

“We will do everything we can to stamp this out, we will do whatever it takes,” he said.

“If, as appears to be the case, only a very small number of people are involved, it ought to be possible to stop it immediately.

“If it isn’t, then we have sanctions and we could pull the grand prix.”

However Mosley insists it would have been an overreaction to immediately drop Spain from the calendar without giving its authorities a chance to solve the issues themselves.

“Not to give the Spanish authorities the opportunity to show they can deal with it and ensure there is no recurrence would have been over the top,” he said.

“But it is necessary to make it clear it will not be tolerated, and we have done that.”

The FIA president’s first interview since the controversy erupted also revealed that the Barcelona incident wasn’t the first time in his short F1 career that Hamilton had been the target of racist abuse.

Mosley says that Lewis’s father, Anthony, had told him that Spanish fans had also taunted the Briton during last October’s Chinese Grand Prix weekend.

“Anthony Hamilton told me that there were some people in China who were also appallingly abusive; not Chinese fans, but people who had travelled from Spain,” said Mosley.

“If they went to Australia and did something like that, they could get arrested and we would know their names, and passport numbers, and they wouldn’t get into another country.”

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