The head of Spain's motorsport federation has moved to quell reaction to supposedly racist comments made in the build-up to this weekend's Brazilian Grand Prix showdown at Interlagos.

Carlos Gracia told Reuters that quotes attributed to him in Spain's El Publico newspaper had been twisted, making him appear critical of the British, accusing them of being racist and, as such, suggesting that it was ironic that they should find themselves supporting Lewis Hamilton.

"I'm very surprised by what was published, and lament the interpretation which has been put on the words," he insisted, "They were taken out of context and wrongly interpreted.

"I want to make it clear that I do not believe in stereotyping any nationality. There was no racist element to what I said and I am a great admirer of England. I did not say that. The accusations that have emerged go against the very principles I've defended in 23 years at the head of the Spanish Federation. What I meant was that England have been looking for a Formula One idol for many years and no matter who he was, they were going to give him all their support. I have always had great respect for Hamilton as a driver and that respect remains even though he can take the title away from [Fernando] Alonso."

Initial interpretations of Gracia's comments will not have been helped by Spain's reputation for producing some of the most racist football fans on the planet, but the president insists that he is aware of what Britain has done for motorsport.

"There has been a big change in the last 15 years but, before that, Spanish drivers who wanted to make it to the top had to emigrate to England, the cradle of motoring," he reflected, "Even if we wanted to promote drivers to the top level, we had to hire English teams because we did not have the same skills here. Today, the opposite is happening, there is an emigration towards Spain. For example, our F3 championship is the best in the world, with drivers from ten or twelve countries. In some things, perhaps we are quite better than England."

Gracia was also critical of Bernie Ecclestone's assessment that it might be better for F1 if Hamilton won the title because he would do more to promote the sport than Alonso.

"Sure, Bernie would like it that Fernando was nicer, but he is like he is and we are not going to change him," he said, "All champions have had to be like that at various moments. Look at how Michael Schumacher was five years ago. He only began to be nice when things started going his way. With all the tension of trying to continue being champion of the world, we cannot ask for Fernando's sympathy. We can only ask him for courtesy.

"I don't think the FIA or Ecclestone cares who wins the title. Evidently, Hamilton has the hearts of McLaren and they have more affection for him, whereas, with Alonso, the relationship is colder, only commercial. But, having said that, I believe they will still treat Fernando professionally."

 

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