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FIA warns of "serious sanctions" following race abuse

NEWS STORY
04/02/2008

The FIA has threatened "serious sanctions" following this weekend's test sessions at Barcelona which witnessed Lewis Hamilton being subjected to racist abuse.

As previously reported, this began with banners, progressed to racist taunts and culminated on Sunday with a group of 'fans' blacking their faces up and wearing T-shirts bearing the words Hamilton's familly (sic). At one stage, witnesses even reported 'missiles' being thrown at the McLarens as they left the pitlane.

On Saturday, following complaints from McLaren, a section of the main grandstand opposite the Woking team's garage was cleared of fans, and the team sectioned off its own area of the paddock and pitlane.

Tonight, mindful of how the situation could deteriorate, the FIA made it clear that it was willing to act, with potentially dire consequences for F1 racing in Spain.

"The FIA is surprised and disappointed at the abuse directed at Lewis Hamilton," a spokesman told Reuters. "Abuse of this kind is a clear breach of the principles enshrined in the FIA statutes and any repetition will result in serious sanctions".

This year, in addition to the Spanish Grand Prix at Barcelona, the European Grand Prix will be held on the streets of Valencia, an event which (F1 supremo) Bernie Ecclestone is describing as the new Monaco.

Over the course of the three days, organizers at Barcelona claim that 55,000 fans have attended, 25,000 passing through the turnstiles on Sunday alone.

A few years back, there was little interest in F1 in Spain, where MotoGP and Superbikes were always far more popular, but then came Fernando Alonso, who, single-handed, turned his nation onto Grand Prix Racing.

No doubt, the FIA will await an explanation from the organisers at Barcelona, not only regarding this weekend's events but how such incidents can be prevented in future, and with the teams due at Jerez in just over a week's time, this is a matter of urgency.

While nobody minds banter, much of it being quite witty, what was witnessed this weekend was totally uncalled for and must be nipped in the bud, for there are always knuckle-draggers out there eager to take things that little bit further.

To check out our Barcelona test gallery, featuring over 150 pictures, click here

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