A British supporter present at the Barcelona Formula 1 test last weekend has claimed officials did nothing to deal with the Spanish fans who racially abused Lewis Hamilton.
Some spectators put on black make-up and sported T-shirts saying 'Hamilton's Family' on the front and 'Alonso No 1' on the back, and the Stevenage-born ace – the first black driver in F1 history – was jeered and insulted when he made his way between the McLaren motorhome and the pits.
At circuit director Ramon Pradera's behest, barriers were erected around the McLaren facilities to protect the 23-year-old's safety, banners around the track referring to both Hamilton and team boss Ron Dennis removed and the stands directly above the McLaren-Mercedes garage cleared to ensure no debris could be thrown down when the car returned to the pit-lane.
Pradera told a Spanish newspaper that extra security had been employed and stewards had responded to the incident quickly on the opening day of the test, with Sky News quoting him as claiming: “We kicked two of them out, we cleared the stands right in front of McLaren's garage and we decided to take measures for Saturday, closing up the terrace right above them. The problem was solved then.”
Fluent Spanish speaker Chris Dann, however – who was in the crowd on both days and only a few seats away from the man leading the abuse – has told a different version of the story, accusing the Circuit de Catalunya of making no effort to silence those responsible or remove them from the premises.
“Absolutely not,” he said. “They left of their own volition after an hour. The abuse was horrendous – he should have been kicked out.”
When Mr Dann challenged the ringleader, he claims he was warned that it would only get worse on day two.
“He told me 'If you're coming tomorrow, wash your ears out',” he added.
Mr Dann was keen to stress, however, that Spain is not a racist nation and that only a minority of spectators were party to the abuse. Hamilton was widely vilified by Spanish fans last season after they blamed him for national hero and then team-mate Fernando Alonso's failure to clinch a third straight world drivers' championship crown.
The FIA has issued threats that strict sanctions would be imposed and Spain could even lose its two grands prix – in Barcelona and Valencia – should there be any repeat of what happened over the weekend, whilst the British Government has also now got involved over the matter [see separate story – click here