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Omnicom agency linked to Lewis Hamilton hate site

LONDON - A Spanish hate website directing racist abuse at new Formula 1 world champion Lewis Hamilton has been revealed as being owned by Omnicom ad agency TBWA Group.

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The site has been at the centre of a racist campaign against Hamilton who yesterday dramatically roared into the history books by becoming the youngest world champion in F1 history.

McLaren driver Hamilton, who needed to finish fifth or higher at the Brazilian Grand Prix on Sunday, snatched victory in the dying moments of the race as he overtook Timo Glock and denied Brazilian driver Felipe Massa the title.

Ferrari driver Massa was only one point behind Hamilton who finished with 98 points.

The Guardian reported on Saturday that the website is owned by TBWA Group, part of the Omnicom group. It has since emerged that it was created by TBWA Group direct and digital agency Tequila\, which talks about the success of the site on its blog.

In a statement TBWA\ told Brand Republic: "Last year Tequila Spain [part of the TBWA Group] set up a website as Spanish national hero Fernando Alonso contested the final stages of the 2007 GP Series.

"This website remained up into this year. When TBWA management learned that the site had attracted inappropriate comment it was shut down immediately. 

"There is absolutely no tolerance of discrimination of any kind within TBWA."

The website called Pincha la Rueda de Hamilton, which translates as "Burst Hamilton's Tyre", encourages visitors to leave virtual nails on the track at Interlagos to stop the British driver becoming world champion at the Brazilian Grand Prix tomorrow.

The site was reported to be full of racist abuse directed at 23-year-old Hamilton who earlier this year at pre-season tests in Barcelona was abused by a racist group of Spanish fans with blacked up faces and wigs. They wore T-shirts with the slogan "Hamilton's family", and shouted abuse at him including insults such as "black shit".

The site has now been taken down but a translation of some of the page is still available to view on Google.

It reads: "Hamilton could not finish the Grand Prix of Brazil. We have to stop it as it is! You just have to choose a skewer, place it at the point of the circuit and you want to wait for the silver arrow suffer a puncture in history."

The incident appears to highlight a failure of online moderation in allowing racists to highjack the site. Jeremy Miller a spokesman for TBWA\New York told the Guardian that they had not been aware of problems with the site until Thursday.

Miller said: "Obviously we do not condone what was published on the site

"I don't know if it was being moderated. It is unfortunate what was being posted, which is why this has been taken down."

He said that there might have been online moderation to begin with, but this could have later lapsed.

The Spanish fans are behind Hamilton's big rival and reigning world champion Fernando Alonso.

The racism directed against Hamilton follows widely-criticised photographs of the Spanish Olympic basketball teams pictured making "slit-eyed" gestures. The picture ran as a newspaper spread in Spain as part of a publicity campaign for team sponsor Seur.

Members of Spain's Olympic women's tennis team were also shown pulling the same pose ahead of a match against China earlier this year.

Spain has a history of racism in sport. Last year, Carlos Gracia, head of the Spanish motorsport federation said prior to the Brazilian Grand Prix: "It is ironic the racists in England are having to rely on a coloured pilot."

In 2004 Spanish national football coach Luis Aragones made abusive racist comments about French striker Thierry Henry.

In that same year English footballers including Carlton Cole, Jermaine Jenas, Ashley Cole and Shaun Wright-Phillips were abused by Spanish fans who made monkey chants.

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