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F1 boss clears air with Hamilton

Lewis Hamilton and Bernie Ecclestone
Ecclestone says those who abused Hamilton, left, are "third rate people"

Formula One boss Bernie Ecclestone says he has cleared the air with Lewis Hamilton after seeming to make light of racist abuse aimed at the Briton.

At a Barcelona test session in February several people donned wigs, blackened their faces and wore t-shirts with 'Hamilton's family' written on them.

Ecclestone was then criticised for calling it a "joke", but he clarified: "I meant they were a joke, clowns.

"I've spoken with Lewis's dad Anthony and he understands, everything's fine."

The F1 supremo acted to clarify his comments to BBC Radio 5 Live after he said he believed the actions of those fans in Barcelona "had nothing to do with racism".

Newly-crowned world champion Hamilton insisted he did not see it as a joke and, amid suggestions he was condoning racism, Ecclestone was roundly condemned by groups such as Kick It Out.

I've dealt with people all over the world for many years and I have no feeling with regard to religion, race, colour, creed or whatever

Bernie Ecclestone
But Ecclestone, 78, replied: "People should remember I was the one who pulled F1 out of South Africa because of apartheid, so no one can say I am against black people.

"I deal with Lewis and his dad all the time. We are good friends and I even play cards with Anthony. I have even had many black people come up and shake my hand and thank me for helping Lewis get into F1.

"I've dealt with people all over the world for many years and I have no feeling with regard to religion, race, colour, creed or whatever."

Referring to the incidents in Barcelona, he said: "If I had had the opportunity, I would have got those guys, dragged them into the paddock and asked them to explain themselves and say the things they were apparently saying directly to Lewis.

"Anyone who does this sort of thing against Muslims, Jews or whoever, are third-rate people."

F1... does not come close to the racism you see in people's first love, and that's football

David Coulthard
And Ecclestone has found support in the form of David Coulthard, who said: "It is trying to be built into something much bigger than it is.

"What happened in Spain because of those four guys, I'm sorry, but it hardly represents a nation of racists.

"I've seen some people having a pop at Bernie for trying to play it down, but what would you expect him to do? He is the ringmaster, the guy that has created this amazing foundation of business success that enables all of us to earn our pennies.

"We're all talking about Lewis being the first billion dollar sportsman, well that is on the foundations of what Bernie has created. To turn round and try to get Bernie to offer an apology to Lewis is just ridiculous.

"F1 may have many failings, but it does not come close to the racism you see in people's first love, and that's football."



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see also
F1 boss plays down Hamilton abuse
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Hamilton targets title hat-trick
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Last-gasp Hamilton takes F1 crown
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How will Hamilton's life change?
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Hamilton's rise to the top
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Hamilton destined for greatness
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Rollercoaster race to the F1 crown
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Feeling the tension at Interlagos
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Website racists target Hamilton
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Hamilton saddened by racist abuse
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Circuit acts on Hamilton incident
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Ferdinand wants racism crackdown
04 Feb 08 |  Internationals
Raikkonen pips Hamilton to title
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