Following the indignation caused by a handful of spectators who taunted Lewis Hamilton, the sport's first driver of color, during winter testing at Barcelona, Spain, Formula One sanctioning body the International Automobile Federation (FIA) has decided to initiate a global anti-racism campaign.
The scheme, to be called Racing against Racism, will be introduced at the Spanish Grand Prix in Barcelona on April 27. Particulars are as yet unspecified.
An FIA spokesman called the group "appalled" by the abuse targeted at Hamilton.
"Such behavior runs counter to the fundamental principles of equality enshrined in the FIA's statutes," he said.
Similar programs in football, sanctioned by bodies including the International Football Federation (FIFA), the Union of European Football Associations (UEFA) and national football associations, post banners at football grounds, send players to schools to address program points with the sport's youngest fans, and find community opportunities to raise awareness about harm done by racism.
Although reports have surfaced that Hamilton's father and agent, Anthony Hamilton, said his son was subjected to racist jeers by fans who had traveled from Spain to China for the next-to-last race of the season, F1 rookie record-setter Hamilton, 23, raced through last season with little fan reaction other than adulation.
Except among the Spanish. A fractious relationship between Hamilton and then-teammate Spaniard Fernando Alonso left Spanish fans feeling their man, two-time and defending world champion, should have been able to achieve a third consecutive driving title with the might of McLaren Mercedes behind him. It did not happen.
Instead of throwing their efforts toward ensuring Alonso a title, the team kept to a long-held code of equality among drivers and let Hamilton and Alonso compete for points as their working relationship deteriorated. That approach and an industrial espionage scandal left McLaren eliminated from constructors title consideration and its drivers tied on points for second behind Ferrari's Kimi Raikkonen in the driving contest.
Spanish fans directed cheap, racially based antics at Hamilton at the Barcelona test the first weekend in February. FIA director Max Mosley reacted by threatening to strip Spain of its two grands prix this season. Track officials and Spanish motorsport grandees were forced to scramble to denounce the behavior even while pointing out it was the action of a handful among tens of thousands.
Grand Prix Drivers Association director Mark Webber said the situation in Spain had been overblown by media reportage. He said the F1 community could halt such antics with quick, thoughtful action.
McLaren was the first F1 team to back the FIA initiative.