Mark Webber and David Coulthard have lent their support to Bernie Ecclestone who faced calls for his resignation this week after brushing off claims that Formula One has a race problem.
Ecclestone triggered outrage amongst anti-racism campaigners when he dismissed the abuse that Lewis Hamilton received in Spain and Brazil as “nonsense,” saying that the events stemmed from sporting opposition to Hamilton rather than real racism.
The comments also invoked a response from Lewis Hamilton himself who said: “I don’t particularly think it was a joke.”
“It’s something that happened in the past and going forward all that is important to me is that I know I have lots of fans, especially here in the UK.”
However, Red Bull driver Mark Webber and his former team-mate David Coulthard have offered their support to Ecclestone saying that the Englishman’s words were taken out of context.
The pair also reckon that the events in Spain, in which four Spanish fans ‘blacked-up’ and hurled abuse at Hamilton, were blown out of proportion.
“I’ll be honest, I did think it was a joke, though the guys who did that obviously went too far,” Webber told the BBC.
“Racism in our sport is totally in check, I believe. Those guys in Spain certainly overstepped the mark but there will always be popular drivers and unpopular drivers in every race – I don’t think it comes down to race at all. We’re all on a level playing field.”
David Coulthard, who was questioned on the issue at a press conference for the forthcoming Race of Champions at Wembley Stadium added: “Bernie’s remarks have been taken out of context. 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,” said the 37-year-old Scot.
“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.”
“To turn around and try to get Bernie to offer an apology to Lewis is just ridiculous,” Coulthard added.
“How many footballers have been subjected to racial taunts and had bananas thrown at them? It wasn’t acceptable then and it’s not acceptable now, but what you’re talking about in Formula One is not on that level,” said Coulthard.
Lewis Hamilton’s father, Anthony, meanwhile, has reportedly reconciled the indifference with Bernie Ecclestone.