Eddie Irvine has joined David Coulthard and Mark Webber in insisting that Formula 1 does not have a problem with racism – agreeing the recent jibes aimed at newly-crowned world champion Lewis Hamilton were in 'bad taste' but arguing they are not an issue 'as long as they physically don't hurt anyone'.
The remarks – posted on 'voodoo-style' Spanish website Pincha la Rueda de Hamilton
(Burst Hamilton's Tyre) – provoked widespread condemnation and revulsion within the F1 paddock when they came to light shortly ahead of the title-deciding Brazilian Grand Prix at Interlagos just over a week ago.
Moreover, the reaction of the sport's commercial rights-holder Bernie Ecclestone – seemingly suggesting Spanish supporters' blacked-out faces during a test in Barcelona earlier this year had been 'probably meant as a joke' – elicited an angry response from anti-racism campaigners and even Hamilton himself.
Following Coulthard's insistence that 'F1 may have many failings, but it does not come close to the racism you see in football' [see separate story – click here
], however, Irvine agreed that the whole matter has been blown out of all proportion, and suggested Hamilton should simply rise above the abuse.
“The world is full of people who are racists and we are never going to change that,” the 43-year-old former Ferrari star said in his column for Virgin Media
, dismissing the comments as 'bad taste' and the result of poor education. “The world is full of people who like black people and people who like white people. Who cares?
“They can do what they want on the internet as long as they physically don't hurt anyone. I'm a big believer in 'sticks and stones may break my bones but names will never hurt me'. Call me what you want, I don't give a damn, leave it at that.”