Fernando Alonso needs to make a public apology on behalf of those disgraceful, so-called Spanish "fans" who subjected Lewis Hamilton to a barrage of obscene racist taunts at Barcelona's Circuit de Catalunya last week.

Not because it was Fernando's fault, you understand, but because it will take a personality of his status to ensure that this kind of filthy behaviour - so often a feature of Spanish football in recent years - is squeezed out of the F1 spectator areas before it takes root.

I would also urge the FIA to publicly insist that if the track operators do not take some stern measures, then the Spanish GP on April 27 should at the very least be run behind closed doors if not cancelled completely.

The 23-year old British driver was subjected to obscene taunts from the grandstand as he continued his preparations for the new season at the wheel of the new McLaren-Mercedes MP4-23 ahead of the first grand prix of 2008 in Australia on March 16.

"The FIA is surprised and disappointed at the abuse directed at Lewis Hamilton," warned a spokesman from the sport's governing body. "Abuse of this kind is a clear breach of the principles enshrined in the FIA statutes and any repetition will result in sanctions."

The controversy erupted after Hamilton found himself on the receiving end of vociferous racist taunts from Spanish fans in the grandstands, which were packed to capacity during the three-day test at the Spanish grand prix circuit.

Despite this, the McLaren team are intent on defusing the episode. Many insiders believe it reflects the view that Spanish fans blame Hamilton for effectively driving Fernando Alonso, their national hero, out of the team after only a single season.

"McLaren has raced and tested on Spanish circuits for many years and everyone connected with the team regard Spain and the Spanish people with genuine affection, Lewis included," said a team spokesman.

The conciliatory tone also acknowledges that the team's hugely popular Spanish test driver, Pedro de la Rosa, was passed over for promotion to the race team after Alonso's departure in favour of Heikki Kovalainen. This despite the team being petitioned by thousands of Spanish fans who wanted the much admired 36-year old to get the job.

I have to say that I feel particularly sorry for de la Rosa. He is one of the most gracious gentlemen I have ever encountered in an F1 paddock, and a Spaniard who is light years away from the jeering half-wits in the Barcelona grandstands.