Catalan Republic banner at the Circuit de Catalunya, 2018

Spanish GP draws fire over Catalan anthem performance

2018 F1 season

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The Royal Spanish Automobile Federation has criticised the performance the official national anthem of Catalonia in the pre-race ceremony during last weekend’s Spanish Grand Prix.

The federation published an open letter complaining it was not consulted about the rendition of the Catalan anthem Els Segadors following the Spanish national anthem prior to the race.

The decision to play the anthem represented an “alteration of protocol”, according to the federation. However RaceFans understands both anthems have been performed at the race since the Circuit de Catalunya first held the Spanish Grand Prix in 1991.

The issue of Catalan independence is a highly sensitive subject in the region. The Catalan government attempted to declare independence from Spain last year following a referendum, leading the Spanish government to take direct control of the region.

The performance of the anthem “has been understood by the media and by a large number of motorsport fans, as an evident use of the capacity of public communication of the sport, for the launching of political messages, at a particularly delicate and painful moments for Catalonia and for Spain,” said the federation in its letter.

As RaceFans reported last week, the Catalan independence debate may have consequences for Spain’s round of the world championship, amid rumours the race could be moved out of Catalonia, to Madrid.

The FIA has in the past reacted strongly if it believes a race has been used for political ends. In 2006 it fined the Turkish Grand Prix promoters after the race winner was presented a trophy by Mehmet Ali Talat, who was referred to as the ‘president of the nothern Turkish republic of Cyprus’, a region only recognised by the Turkish government.

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Royal Spanish Automobile Federation open letter on Catalan national anthem

Translated from Spanish:

In view of the events that took place last Sunday, May 13th, at the start of the Spanish Grand Prix of Formula 1, after having analyzed the matter in depth, and with the backing of the members of the Board of Directors of this Royal Spanish Federation of Motoring, which I am honoured to chair, we feel the need to highlight the following issues in this open letter:

1. That the Sporting Regulations of the Formula 1, in its article 19.4, provides for the interpretation of the National Anthem, 14 minutes before the beginning of the formation round [lap], within the protocol of the Exit Ceremony.

Lewis Hamilton, Mercedes, Circuit de Catalunya, 2018
Spanish GP boss vows to “fight like a devil” to protect race
2. That, obviously, in the case of the Spanish Grand Prix, and how the regulation speaks in the singular of the national anthem, this cannot be other than the Spanish Anthem or March of Granaderos, which is the only official anthem of Spain since 1770, and the interpretation of any other anthem is not foreseen, therefore, both the mere presence on the Catalan flag track and the interpretation of the Anthem of Catalonia, are out of place in that Ceremony.

3. That, given the current political circumstances, this alteration of the protocol – contrary to the Sporting Regulations of Formula One – has been understood by the media and by a large number of motorsport fans, as an evident use of the capacity of public communication of the sport, for the launching of political messages, at a particularly delicate and painful moments for Catalonia and for Spain.

4. That this Royal Spanish Federation of Motorsports was not informed that it was going to make this change of protocol, with which it did not know about it, and was surprised in its good faith.

5. That, if this Royal Spanish Automobile Federation had been consulted about the possibility of carrying out this alteration of the regulatory protocol of the Grand Prix Exit Ceremony, it would have opposed its authorisation, always with the maximum and absolute respect to the symbols of Catalonia, but the exit of a Formula 1 Grand Prix is ​​a regulated sporting event, and the rules are to be respected and fulfilled.

6. That the Royal Spanish Motoring Federation expects and wishes that this type of situation does not happen again in an event of our sport, and requires the special collaboration for this purpose of the FIA, the FOM, the Higher Sports Council and of the Government of Spain, and of the Organising Committee of the Grand Prix of Spain of Formula 1, “Circuit de Barcelona Catalunya”.

Sincerely,

Manuel Aviñó Roger
President

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Dieter Rencken has held full FIA Formula 1 media accreditation since 2000, during which period he has reported from over 300 grands prix, plus...
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  • 21 comments on “Spanish GP draws fire over Catalan anthem performance”

    1. “a region not recognised by the Turkish government” — ‘not’ should probably read ‘only’?

      1. @krommenaas Corrected, thank you.

    2. People are always eager to make a big fuss out of basically nothing, LOL.

    3. joe pineapples
      17th May 2018, 11:00

      They could be playing ‘knees up mother brown’ for all I know as a tv viewer. I always mute the sound at that point anyway, especially if its a vocalist warbling it all out.

    4. They shouldn’t bother with anthems. Its nationalistic nonsense and only whinging and offence will be drawn from it.

      All small minded rubbish.

    5. Hi,

      “who was referred to as the ‘president of the nothern Turkish republic of Cyprus’, a region not recognised by the Turkish government.” It is quite the opposite actually: this region is recognised only by the Turkish government,
      which explains how F1 was used to propagate a political message.

    6. RaceFans draws fire over Northern Cyprus title referral.

    7. The best bit was When the camera was on Alonso and he turned to walk off thinking the anthem was over….then…..whoops, turn back for the last few bars.

    8. If nothing changed since 1991 whats all the fuss about? there is nothing new. why didnt we get an open letter in any of the previous years when protocol was breached supposedly?

      1. @vjanik – it’s because the issue has come into focus with the events of the Catalonian declaration of independence that occurred in Oct 2017. Now, with both sides quite vigilant, what might have previously been treated as a “cultural song of a particular region” is new viewed as “national anthem of a breakaway region”.

      2. The Spanish govt are picking up on something that has happened for years and are now politicising it. In effect, it is them (not the track) who are using F1 to make a political statement – the FIA should have a word.

        1. @petebaldwin the issue with the anthems, regardless of what both the federation and the circuit say, is that the spanish anthem played was a shortened version whereas the catalonian anthem was the full length version (twice as long as the spanish). It’s also the only country where not only the national anthem, but also a regional anthem is played, although it’s been this way since the very beginning. Sainz, when asked, reportedly said that all drivers were saying they had to get into the cars, since they usually leave 13-14 minutes before the race start and in Barcelona they left with 11 minutes to go, so everyone was in a bit of a hurry.

    9. This is more likely a case where a the big ups doesn’t care/know about what happening and only saying something now because its the political hot topic. Pretty sure he never interested in F1 otherwise he’d realized the same anthem played since 1991.

    10. Much ado about nothing. The spanish government is obviously touchy about the subject now because they have no idea how to react to this. Overreacting is gonna harm their cause more than it will help it in my opinion.

      1. I think it is a little too late to stop them overreacting…

        They already have in a big way.

    11. @phylyp If you play the catalan national anthem every year since 1991, and then remove it from the ceremony because the topic is sensitive or “in focus”, then you are being very political indeed. Whether they like it or not, the FIA are taking sides here.

      It would be a different story if 2018 was the first year that the catalan anthem was played before the Barcelona race. In that case i would understand the FIA’s argument that protocols was breached. They could just write that only the Spanish anthem should have been played, same as previous years, or as in other countries. And that adding the second anthem was against the protocol of F1 and a mistake.

      But this is not what happened.

      1. In other words the Spanish government put pressure on F1, hence the letter. This has nothing to do with an FIA protocol.

      2. the FIA are taking sides here.

        @vjanik – note that the FIA hasn’t done anything here.

        It’s the Royal Spanish Automobile Federation that has censured the events of the weekend, via an open letter, not one directed at any party either (e.g. not the FIA or race promoters).

        Also, it is the race promoters/organizers who organize these events (podium ceremony, etc.) within the general guidelines provided by the FIA & FOM, and are the ones who’ve continued to play the anthem this year, as in past years.

        1. ah yes sorry. RSAF not FIA. although lets see next year… :-)

        2. @vjanik – no worries. In fact, what will be important to see is how the FIA responds to this, if at all. I think when it comes to that, you and I are in agreement that FIA should just say to the RSAF this is how its been done for decades at this track, and leave it to the race organizers and RSAF to determine the course of action for next year.

          This could very well be a diversion as well, to build support for moving the Spanish GP away from Barcelona and into Madrid, or for the RSAF to get tighter control over how the GP is organized in Barcelona.

    12. “The FIA has in the past reacted strongly if it believes a race has been used for political ends”

      …..unless the track pays enough money for the FIA to keep quiet……

      America want to paint the runoff areas with their national flag!? No! That’s a political message! Putin wants to go the podium and in the cool-down room? Yep. Sounds good.

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