(Reuters) -Lewis Hamilton was subjected to racist abuse online after winning the British Grand Prix, with social media firm Facebook saying on Monday it had removed a number of comments on Instagram.
The seven-times world champion celebrated a record eighth British Grand Prix victory on Sunday at Silverstone after fighting back from a 10-second penalty for a first-lap collision that ended up with title rival Max Verstappen in hospital.
The 36-year-old Mercedes driver was targeted online hours after the victory, with racist messages including monkey emojis sent as replies to a post by his Mercedes team on Instagram.
“The racist abuse directed at Hamilton during and after the British Grand Prix is unacceptable and we’ve removed a number of comments from Instagram,” a spokesperson for Facebook, which owns Instagram, said in a statement.
“In addition to our work to remove comments and accounts that repeatedly break our rules, there are safety features available, including comment filters and message controls, which can mean no one has to see this type of abuse.
“No single thing will fix this challenge overnight but we’re committed to the work to keep our community safe from abuse.”
In a joint statement, Mercedes, Formula One and motor sports governing body the FIA condemned the abuse of Hamilton and sought punishment for those guilty.
“These people have no place in our sport and we urge that those responsible should be held accountable for their actions,” the statement read.
“Formula One, the FIA, the drivers and teams are working to build a more diverse and inclusive sport and such unacceptable instances of online abuse must be highlighted and eliminated.”
Verstappen’s Red Bull team, who had strongly criticised Hamilton’s driving on Sunday, joined the condemnation.
“While we may be fierce rivals on track, we are all united against racism,” the team said in a statement. “We condemn racist abuse of any kind towards our team, our competitors and our fans.
“As a team we are disgusted and saddened to witness the racist abuse Lewis endured yesterday on social media after the collision with Max.
“There is never any excuse for it, there is certainly no place for it in our sport and those responsible should be held accountable.”
Hamilton has been a vocal advocate for social justice and among the supporters of the ‘Black Lives Matter’ movement.
He said before the race he was inspired by the reaction of England soccer players to racist abuse after their penalty shootout defeat by Italy in this month’s European Championship final.
British Prime Minister Boris Johnson met social media firms last week to ask them to step up the fight against online abuse.
(Reporting by Shrivathsa Sridhar in Bengaluru/Alan Baldwin; Editing by Peter Rutherford/Hugh Lawson/Ken Ferris)