Racist abuse could cost the country dear, warns governing body.
Spain could lose its Formula One Grand Prix this year following the racist abuse of Lewis Hamilton by fans at the Montmelo circuit at the weekend, motorsport's governing body FIA warned on Monday.
The Spanish Grand Prix is scheduled for April 27 at the Montmelo venue near Barcelona while Valencia hosts the European Grand Prix on August 24.
A FIA spokesman said: "FIA are surprised and disappointed at the abuse directed at Lewis Hamilton. An act of this kind is a clear breach of the principles enshrined in the FIA statutes, and any repetition will result in sanctions".
Montmelo circuit officials have said they will act to prevent any repeat of the incidents which marred a pre-season testing session on the track at the weekend.
Circuit director Ramon Praderas said: "There is a lot at stake and we could lose a lot which means we will not be tolerating this sort of behaviour at the Spanish Grand Prix. We consider this a very serious situation and we will be toughening up security measures”.
The fans' behaviour was seen as a reaction to perceived favouritism by McLaren for Britain's Hamilton last season at the expense of Spaniard Fernando Alonso, who has since rejoined Renault.
On each occasion Hamilton left the pits, insults were thrown at him by a group of spectators, wearing black wigs with black make-up and T-shirts bearing the legend "Hamilton's Family" on the front and "Alonso No 1" on the back.
Two spectators were thrown out of the circuit over an incident which Hamilton described as saddening.
"The truth is that I feel somewhat sad, I am in love with this country, and especially the city of Barcelona and this circuit, which is one of my three favourites", the driver told sportlifepress.com.
"The people in Spain have always been very warm with me, and even though I imagined what might happen it has not been pleasant.
"But maybe these types of things make you learn to appreciate more the warmth of the public, who although you always try to be there for them, you never know how important they are to you until these types of things happen".
"I would like them (the Spanish fans) to understand my position". Hamilton said.
"The only thing that I have done is to try to give the best of myself and try to win the championship, at no point have I tried to deliberately prejudice Fernando, but the fight has been very tough and my image in Spain has been severely damaged".
British Sports Minister Gerry Sutcliffe said he would be writing to FIA to ask the governing body to ensure there could be no repeat of the abuse suffered by Hamilton, which echoed the treatment dished out to black footballers when England played a friendly in Madrid in 2004.
"I was shocked by those sickening images," Sutcliffe said. "How on earth were fans dressed like this allowed into the circuit”?
Sutcliffe said he would be also writing to his Spanish counterpart, adding: "Racism should not be tolerated and this is not the first time British sportsmen have been racially abused in Spain”.