I was watching News at Ten this week and up popped Eddie Jordan, looking tanned, relaxed and rich. Wrapped in an expensive leather jacket, EJ was standing in a smart London street, talking about the extraordinary outbreak of racism at the Catalunya circuit near Barcelona. I could see by the caption that he was ‘live’ on the air and so I imagined that either something dreadful had happened or he had decided to come back to Grand Prix racing. The latter, I thought, was most unlikely and, turning up the volume, I heard him mention Thierry Henry. Had the man bought a football team, I wondered, spurred on by Flavio Briatore’s success in dragging Queens Park Rangers up the first division? (My bet is that QPR will be in the premier league very promptly). But no, it was about Spanish fans taunting Lewis Hamilton during testing at Catalunya.
What a very sad and dismal story this is. It reminded me of both Thierry Henry and Eric Cantona, Henry suffering at the hands of a racist referee and Cantona being taunted by racist fans while weaving his magic for the great Manchester United. (My bet is they will beat Arsenal to the Premiership title, and I hope they do). Both Henry and Cantona spoke eloquently about the problems of racism in sport, both Frenchmen having finally lost their tempers with ignorant spectators. Footballers, of course, are performing very close to their supporters, and their enemies, so it is more tempting to react on the spur of the moment.
Lewis Hamilton, by contrast, could only watch in despair from the pitlane as a small group of idiots in rude t-shirts set about ruining his day in Spain. I trust that Fernando Alonso, despite the tensions of last season with Lewis at McLaren, would not condone this kind of lunacy from his fellow Spaniards, even if they do claim to be his fans. Eddie Jordan suggested that the Spanish Grand Prix be cancelled, that the FIA remove the race from the calendar. No doubt the race will go ahead and anyway it is not the answer. As far as I am aware, Hamilton has experienced similar racism during his early karting days but never before in the rarified atmosphere of Formula One. And it has to be stamped out, now. Never must a handful of clowns be allowed to damage a sport that has a worldwide audience. Some might say the business has conspired to make a dent in its image. But racism is a whole different story.
Don’t cancel the Grand Prix. Find out who the idiots are and ban then from the circuit. Similar action has made a huge difference to the atmosphere in football stadiums.
But well done EJ, for coming on ‘live’ and calling for immediate action. Grand Prix racing needs a good, clean and positive year, especially for Hamilton and Alonso. Silly politics and resentment, of any kind, is – as they say on the catwalks – so very last year.