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Last Updated: Tuesday, 12 February 2008, 11:02 GMT
Taunted Hamilton returns to Spain
Lewis Hamilton
Hamilton returned to the pit lane in Jerez on Tuesday
Lewis Hamilton resumed testing his McLaren in Spain on Tuesday for the first time since suffering racist abuse at the hands of a Spanish crowd.

The Briton, 23, was in action at the Jerez track in southern Spain, nine days after being taunted in Barcelona by fans with blacked-up faces.

But BBC commentator David Croft, who is at Jerez, reported there was no sign of a repeat occurrence on Tuesday.

He said there were about 250 "muted" spectators in the grandstands.

"They are giving Hamilton due respect," Croft said. "They're here to watch the cars."

Hamilton set the pace in testing, completing 89 laps with a best time of one minute 19.102 seconds.

The Briton is a target for Spanish fans because of his rivalry with former McLaren team-mate Fernando Alonso.

Spanish tracks risk sanctions if the abuse is not stamped out.

Mark Webber
The individuals need to be punished, but to take it out on the whole sport and the country is wrong

Mark Webber

Max Mosley, president of F1's governing body the FIA, has made it clear racism will not be tolerated.

He said the FIA could "pull the [Spanish] Grand Prix" if the racist abuse continued but added that calls for the country to be stripped of one or both of its Formula One races were premature.

Meanwhile, McLaren insisted they would be going about their work in their usual fashion.

Hamilton's fellow driver Mark Webber, a director of the Grand Prix Drivers' Association, said it would be wrong to punish tracks when there were other ways of dealing with the problem.

"If we are professional and organised, that stuff just doesn't get to the front line," Webber told BBC Sport.

"The individuals need to be punished but to take it out on the whole sport and the country is wrong."

Webber added that fans wearing black make-up and wigs at the Circuit de Catalunya near Barcelona earlier this month were a tiny minority among an unusually large crowd at a pre-season test session.

Lewis Hamilton
Hamilton is back in Spain for the first time since being abused

"It can be stopped so much further downstream," stated Webber, who will be a columnist for the BBC Sport website this season.

"There were a few guys who were absolutely out of order, and that's what the whole thing has been hung on.

"You had a lot of fans who were there with their young kids on a Sunday, so why should you stuff it all for them because of a few guys?

"We need to address it further back. You do not want airport security at a Grand Prix, where people are checking your bag for excessive amounts of make-up.

"So how do you draw the line? It's difficult. They need to be able to control the individuals and move on as they do in other cases."

Webber said Hamilton would inevitably not be popular in Spain for some time because of his tempestuous relationship with Alonso at McLaren last year.

The Spanish double world champion left the team one year into a three-year contract after a difficult year marked by disputes over his status at McLaren.

"We have two races in Spain - one in Barcelona and one in Valencia," Webber said.

"They will be extremely well attended and the fans won't like Lewis and probably won't for a long time, but that's the way they are.

Compared to the last time I was here, the car already feels quite a big step forward

Lewis Hamilton

"They didn't like Michael [Schumacher] either.

"Obviously, there is a racism angle because Lewis is black, and they will draw on that and that's something they will use to get under people's skin. But you just have to figure out a way not to let that happen."

Webber said the Barcelona test where Hamilton suffered the abuse was unusually well attended - winter test sessions normally attracted very few spectators.

"I thought to start with the atmosphere at the test was quite cool - there were thousands of people making a lot of noise and we'd never seen that at a test before," Webber said.

"But obviously there were a few guys who had overstepped the mark unquestionably to paint themselves up.

"They had probably had a few lemonades or we don't know what their mental state was; but most of the people were there having a different sort of Sunday afternoon. They had come to see their hero.

"They are totally, totally biased towards Fernando as any sporting nation is.

"The over-reaction of the media - it was like five guys who had turned up, and you can't do that at all - but take it back a bit. It's totally controllable and we can get on top of it."

Hamilton revealed his return to Barcelona was a lot more positive on the track as he put McLaren's MP4-23 car through its paces.

"I'm feeling more and more comfortable in the car, I feel much happier with the results we got," he told BBC Radio 5 Live.

"Compared to the last time I was here, the car already feels quite a big step forward. We have to keep going forward in that direction."

And Hamilton is confident his team are closing the gap on Ferrari.

"(The gap) was more at the beginning of the testing seasons, mainly because when you take away the traction controls, the set-up we had perhaps wasn't as good as Ferrari's," he said.

"We have made some really good steps in the right direction. I reckon we are 80% of the way there."



SEE ALSO
F1 boss pledges to tackle racists
10 Feb 08 |  Formula One
Stepney goes before prosecutors
07 Feb 08 |  Formula One
Circuit acts on Hamilton incident
05 Feb 08 |  Formula One
Hamilton saddened by racist abuse
04 Feb 08 |  Formula One
Ferdinand wants racism crackdown
04 Feb 08 |  Internationals


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