Foreign Secretary David Miliband has been urged to intervene in the racism row overshadowing the Brazilian Grand Prix Formula 1 World Championship showdown at Interlagos this weekend – by making a formal protest to the Spanish government.
A 'voodoo-style' Spanish website – on which visitors are encouraged to post offensive messages towards McLaren-Mercedes star Lewis Hamilton and drop imaginary nails, pins or porcupines on a mock-up of the Autodromo Carlos Pace in a simulated effort to cause the Briton to suffer a puncture – has received widespread condemnation [see separate story – click here
Entitled Pincha la Rueda de Hamilton
– Burst Hamilton's Tyre – the site was set up, argues Labour MP Keith Vaz, in a bid to destabilise the 23-year-old's title challenge. Should he finish fifth or higher in São Paulo, regardless of what happens to Ferrari rival Felipe Massa, the Stevenage-born ace will make history as both the youngest-ever world champion and also the first black driver ever to lift the ultimate laurels.
A notice on the website – which can no longer be accessed – read: 'Hamilton can't finish the race. We have to stop him however we can. All you have to do is choose a spike, place it where you want on the circuit and hope he suffers a historic puncture.'
Upon leaving the website, an automated message says: 'We hope Hamilton punctures thanks to your help.'
“The Spanish government cannot stand back and allow this organised and systematic racism to continue,” Planet-F1
quotes Vaz – chairman of Labour's Ethnic Minority Taskforce – as having insisted. “These people must be widely condemned and the websites that they use shut down immediately.
“I call upon the Foreign Secretary to make a formal protest to the Spanish government, urging them to act on this serious issue that looks set only to escalate if action is not taken now.”
The sport's governing body, the FIA, has similarly condemned the 'abusive and hateful' comments left on the site, which are believed to have been posted by fans of Fernando Alonso, who fell out so spectacularly with Hamilton at McLaren in 2007 that the former double F1 World Champion ended up leaving the Woking-based outfit at the end of the season, two years before his three-year contract was due for renewal.
Earlier this year, the FIA launched the Every Race
initiative after Hamilton found himself the target of similar racist abuse during a test at Barcelona's Circuit de Catalunya – an incident to which the British government also responded.