F1

Ecclestone pans FIA racism scheme

Ecclestone pans FIA racism scheme

The FIA's scheme to promote racial tolerance has been labeled unnecessary by Formula One impresario Bernie Ecclestone. Bernie Ecclestone. Photo by xpb.cc. Speaking to BBC Radio 5 Live's "Sportsweek" program, Ecclestone said he ...

The FIA's scheme to promote racial tolerance has been labeled unnecessary by Formula One impresario Bernie Ecclestone.

Bernie Ecclestone.
Photo by xpb.cc.

Speaking to BBC Radio 5 Live's "Sportsweek" program, Ecclestone said he considered the antics of a handful of fans at winter testing in Barcelona through the first weekend in February as those of attention seekers and not likely to be repeated.

"It's a one-off, nothing to worry about," he said.

A group of fans in wigs and blackface, and wearing shirts labeled "Hamilton's family" jeered McLaren Mercedes driver Lewis Hamilton, who is of African Caribbean descent. No such incident occurred at subsequent testing at Jerez de la Frontera, Spain.

Ecclestone said he saw no reason for a worldwide FIA campaign against racism, proposed by FIA president Max Mosley in the wake of the Barcelona display, because the only incident had taken place in Spain and it had not been repeated.

The fans' behavior was attributed to last season's troubled pairing of then rookie Hamilton and double world champion Fernando Alonso, the first Spaniard to win the World Driving Championship. The then McLaren teammates concluded they could not work together and Alonso left the team, ending a three-year contract after one year. He now drives for Renault, for whom he became the youngest world driving titlist in 2005 at age 24.

Ecclestone said he did not think the disruptive fans in Barcelona were necessarily Alonso fans.

"I don't think they're fans, and I don't think they were supporting Alonso in particular," he said. "They just like to abuse people."

Ecclestone said FIA sanctions could be considered if similar incidents occur. Mosley threatened to strip Spain of its two Grands Prix this season, in Barcelona and Valencia, should further incidents take place.

The FIA's "Racing against Racism" campaign is scheduled for introduction at the Spanish Grand Prix in Barcelona on April 27.

Ecclestone, 77, who credited Hamilton with bringing new fans to the sport, said he had not spoken to the driver about the taunting in Barcelona but he did not think Hamilton was affected by the fan display and called the 23-year-old driver "strong enough to know it is all nonsense".

Ecclestone called having a black driver challenge for the world title, as Hamilton did last season, "really magic".

Ecclestone also called the spy scandal that stripped McLaren of a guaranteed constructors title "a lot of ink in the newspapers which we probably wouldn't have got that time of that year, so it was all, all right". And he added that lack of drivers aids in cars this year won't have an effect.

"The drivers will make it exciting," he said.

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