Fernando Alonso has blasted a 'voodoo-style' Spanish website whose visitors were encouraged to make racist slurs against Lewis Hamilton and place imaginary nails in the world championship leader's path around a simulated version of the Interlagos circuit, insisting that 'in 2008 we cannot have these kind of people in our world'.
The site – entitled Pincha la Rueda de Hamilton
, or 'Burst Hamilton's Tyre' – was met with widespread disgust in the Formula 1 paddock when its presence was revealed on Friday [see separate story – click here
], with many observers believing it was set up in an effort to try and derail the McLaren-Mercedes star's title charge in this weekend's Brazilian Grand Prix. Should he finish fifth or better in São Paulo, the Stevenage-born ace will become not only the sport's youngest-ever world champion, but also the first black driver to lift the crown.
It is not the first time racism in F1 has reared its ugly head this year, after Hamilton found himself on the receiving end of jeers and insults during a test in Barcelona back in February, from 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. Following that unsavoury episode, the FIA launched its anti-racism 'Every Race' campaign, and threatened Spain with the loss of its grand prix should any such incidents re-occur.
Those who posted the comments on the site – which has since been removed from the internet – are believed to have been disgruntled fans of Alonso, Hamilton's former team-mate at Woking and a driver with whom the Briton fell out to such an extent that the Spaniard left the squad two years before his three-year contract was due to expire at the end of the 2007 season. The man from Oviedo has insisted he in no way endorses such abuse.
“If it's true, obviously this is not [acceptable],” the 27-year-old former double world champion is quoted as having said by F1SA
. “In 2008 we cannot have these kind of people in our world.”
“This is not what we condone as a company,” added Jeremy Miller – a spokesman for the Spanish branch of the New York-based global advertising agency TWBA, which runs the site – in an interview with The Guardian
, promising to take 'appropriate action' once further enquiries have been conducted.
On the same weekend that British Prime Minister Gordon Brown told AFP
that Hamilton 'will be a great world champion' as the 23-year-old is 'a hero to so many young people in Britain', MPs Keith Vaz and Andy Burnham have urged Foreign Secretary David Miliband to intervene in the row by making a formal protest to the Spanish government against such 'systematic abuse' [see separate story – click here
“Really it's not for us to take action against these people,” underlined McLaren team principal Ron Dennis. “In some instances it's government and in some instances it's organisations that are designed specifically to address these issues in this world.”
Meanwhile, Felipe Massa – the only driver who can still pip Hamilton to the laurels – has dismissed as merely 'part of the sport' a separate prank played on his rival during a sponsor's event in the build-up to the weekend.
Brazilian TV comedians threw a toy black cat – a sign of bad luck in Brazil – at the nine-time grand prix-winner during a Johnnie Walker function in the country, and handed him a football jersey of Vasco da Gama, a team renowned for finishing second.
“Sport is like that,” insisted Massa. “If somebody went and hurt him I would be very disappointed, but I think that's part of the sport.”
Hamilton, for his part, added that he doubted 'very much' that a similar trick would be played in Britain.