A furious Bernie Ecclestone has slammed the reaction to his comments that recent incidents involving Lewis Hamilton were jokes rather than examples of real racism.

A furious Bernie Ecclestone has slammed the reaction to his comments that recent incidents involving Lewis Hamilton were jokes rather than examples of real racism.

The F1 chief executive's comments to a British radio programme, immediately rejected by new world champion Hamilton himself, sparked outrage in the UK, including from anti-racism campaigner Paul Elliot who believes 78-year-old Ecclestone "should resign" as a result.

But the British billionaire has hit back at suggestions he is insensitive to the seriousness of racism.

"I was the one who pulled the grand prix out of South Africa (after 1985) in support of Nelson Mandela because of bloody apartheid before these people knew anything about racism," Ecclestone told The Times.

He also said he was prepared to take action on the episode at a Barcelona test earlier this year, when a group of fans blacked out their faces and screamed insults at 23-year-old Hamilton.

"I said to the promoters in Barcelona, 'Let me go and get the people that blacked their faces up and bring them into the paddock and introduce them to Lewis and then see what they've got to say.'

"But the police said, 'Don't do it,'" he explained.

In another subsequent interview, Ecclestone backtracked on his claim this week that the Spanish fans are "entitled to support who they want to support".

He now describes them as "cowards", and branded obscene messages on a Spanish website last week "disgusting".

"We won't put up with that in formula one," Ecclestone told the Mirror.

"They are cowards. They are nothing, they are nobodies."

A spokesman for McLaren reiterated the team's support for the FIA's anti-racism campaign but declined to comment specifically on the latest developments involving Ecclestone.

"We don't want to say anything that will inflame the issue. We want to be able to let Lewis enjoy his win in peace," he said.

The FIA also did not want to wade in on the latest debate, explaining the governing body "has consistently made its position clear" on the issue of racism.

 

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