FIA announces 'Everyrace' campaign in Barcelona

Updated: April 24, 2008, 11:20 AM ET
ESPN.com news services

BARCELONA, Spain -- Formula One's governing body launched an anti-racism campaign on Thursday at the same track where Spanish fans taunted black driver Lewis Hamilton.

FIA unveiled the "Everyrace" campaign in response to the racist abuse directed at the McLaren driver during winter testing here on Feb. 2.

Widely publicized photographs showed a group of people in the Catalunya Circuit stands wearing dark face paint with T-shirts displaying the slogan "Hamilton's Family."

The anti-racism campaign was launched on the www.everyrace.net Web site after FIA agreed with the Spanish Automobile Federation's assessment that the incident was "not at all representative of the thousands of people who enjoy a convivial atmosphere and the spectacle offered by motorsport."

The Web site allows visitors to pledge support for the initiative via e-mail alongside morphing photos of faces of different nationalities involved in F1.

Hamilton said he doesn't expect any problems this weekend.

"It's good to see all the other drivers supporting it as well," Hamilton said.

Formula One's most celebrated rookie last year is under pressure this season to rebound from consecutive poor results after winning the first race at the Australian GP.

The 23-year-old had his worst placing in 20 career races at Bahrain after a stall at the start and a rushed overtaking move that cost him his front wing and eventually had him finish 13th.

"Obviously, I won't be making the same mistake again," Hamilton said Thursday. "Running away and coming here feeling fresh [for this weekend] was important."

Hamilton ceded the championship lead to Ferrari's Kimi Raikkonen as a result. World champion Raikkonen leads with 19 points, three better than BMW Sauber's Nick Heidfeld. Hamilton, teammate Heikki Kovalainen and Robert Kubica of BMW Sauber are next with 14.

News of the anti-racism campaign was news to Spanish drivers Fernando Alonso and Pedro De La Rosa.

"I was not aware of this campaign," said Alonso, who has always maintained the fans were not taunting Hamilton over his skin color.

"This weekend, and always, it has always been OK and everyone will be able to see," said the Renault driver, who had a rocky partnership with Hamilton at McLaren last year.

The FIA warned the Spanish authorities and circuits after that incident that the country's two F1 races -- the other is in Valencia in August -- could be at risk if there was any repeat.

There has been none to date and the governing body said on Thursday they had received a comprehensive report from the Spanish motor racing authorities and circuit owners.

"The FIA is grateful to the RFEA (Real Federacion Espanola de Automovilismo) and the Catalunyan circuit authorities for their effective and efficient response to this situation," FIA said in a prepared statement.

"The FIA agrees with the RFEA assessment that the people involved in these incidents were 'not at all representative of the thousands of people who enjoy a convivial atmosphere and the spectacle offered by motorsports.'"

Hamilton spoke warmly of the Spanish fans in a McLaren preview of Sunday's race, the fourth round of the season, making clear he harbored no ill feelings.

"The Circuit de Catalunya is a great track; we can't ever lose it from the calendar," he said. "It always sees competitive racing and there are so many enthusiastic fans there all the time which makes for a great atmosphere."

On the campaign Web site, he added: "I believe that motorsport, like all other sports, is about freedom of expression in the pursuit of competition and excellence. Nothing more, nothing less."

FIA president Max Mosley, embroiled in a sex scandal and absent from Barcelona, said one of the things that attracted him to motorsports was "that nobody cared about your background, race, gender or religion. All that mattered was how quick you were."

F1 chief executive Bernie Ecclestone told The Associated Press earlier this year that the Spanish incidents were blown out of proportion and that he wanted to meet the alleged racists this weekend.

"The sport is all about a driver's ability and this will never have anything to do with their race or the color of their skin," Ecclestone said.

The Associated Press and Reuters contributed to this report.

ALSO SEE