Formula 1 World Champion-elect Lewis Hamilton has again found himself on the receiving end of a torrent of racist abuse from Spanish fans, on the eve of the season-ending Brazilian Grand Prix at Interlagos this weekend.
The McLaren-Mercedes star – who stands poised to become both the sport's youngest-ever title-winner and first black world champion should he finish fifth or higher in São Paulo, regardless of where Ferrari rival Felipe Massa takes the chequered flag – has been targeted by what the Daily Telegraph
describes as 'a vile campaign' on 'a voodoo-style website'.
The British broadsheet reports that more than 16,000 racist messages have been left on the website, calling Hamilton a 'nigger', 'half-breed' and 'monkey'. Another called him a 'conguito' – a type of chocolate sweet with racist overtones – and told the 23-year-old he was 'going to die', whilst other messages read 'Half-breed, kill yourself in your car' and 'I hope you run over your dad in the first pit-stop, Hamilton'.
The website also invites visitors to place imaginary nails for the Stevenage-born ace around a computer simulation of the Autodromo Carlos Pace, and the racism is a chilling echo of the similar abuse Hamilton received during testing around the Circuit de Catalunya in Barcelona back in February, when he was taunted, booed, jeered and insulted by spectators wearing black make-up and clad in T-shirts with 'Hamilton's Family' written on the front and 'Alonso No. 1' on the back.
That unsavoury episode was blamed upon angry supporters of Fernando Alonso, Hamilton's former team-mate at McLaren and a man with whom the Briton fell out to such an extent that the double F1 World Champion left the squad two years before his three-year contract was due to expire at the end of the 2007 season.
In the wake of that, Spain was threatened with the loss of its grand prix should any such incidents re-occur in the future, and the FIA was prompted to launch its 'Racing Against Racism' initiative.
“Discrimination and prejudice have no place in sport and society,” a spokesman for the governing body insisted after the latest abuse. “Everybody in our sport will join us in condemning these abusive, hateful comments.”
“McLaren was one of the earliest supporters of the FIA's 'Every Race' campaign,” added a spokesman for the Woking-based outfit. “We echo the position of the FIA in response to this latest episode.”
In 2004, Spanish football fans ridiculed Rio Ferdinand, Ashley Cole, Shaun Wright-Phillips and Jermaine Jenas with monkey chants during a friendly international match in Real Madrid's Bernabeu Stadium, for which the Spanish Football Association was fined £44,750.
Just a month earlier, Spain's national football coach Luis Aragones had been forced to pay £2,000 for making derogatory comments about former Arsenal star Thierry Henry.
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