The formula one racism scandal involving Lewis Hamilton has turned into a media slanging match between Britain and Spain, as both accuse the other side of wielding the more serious prejudices. English tabloid The Sun published photos of spectators at the Circuit de Catalunya wearing black makeup and wigs, while the Times accused the Spanish media of "overlooking" the vile incident.

"The Spanish media all but ignored the controversy over Hamilton's treatment in Barcelona," the London newspaper claimed.

But swarms of prominent Spanish newspapers roundly condemned the abuse of F1's only black driver, in step with the country's motor sports authority and the Spanish grand prix venue.

La Vanguardia called for a "zero tolerance" attitude to racist "lunatics", and El Mundo said Montmelo had been the scene of an "embarrassing spectacle" for Spain.

Britain's The Independent, however, said the incident revealed an underlying racist element to modern Spanish culture.

"It's pretty clear that they are decades behind Britain when it comes to attitudes towards race," an editorial read.

A headline in the Daily Telegraph announced that "Racism is Spanish sport", declaring that "there is something seriously wrong with their authorities who have not taught the masses that such behaviour is unacceptable.

"This may be because the authorities do not see such behaviour as unacceptable," it added.

A writer for Diario AS slammed the British press and said the bad behaviour of a dozen Spaniards at the weekend had been reported as the work of thousands.

"Generalisation is a dangerous habit, which often leads to wrong conclusions and is almost always unfair," the columnist wrote.

"Especially because an uncontrolled individual can cause tremendous prejudice against a whole group, as we are used to seeing at many sporting events."

Another AS article said the Barcelona incident had morphed into a "disproportionate snowball" in the press, and named the "English press" as having denounced Spanish sports fans as "racist because of a few isolated" wrongdoers.

Circuit de Catalunya boss Ramon Praderas also accused the media of "in some cases taking the incident out of context".

"To say we are a racist country is an exaggeration," he said. "There were many more people who took happy photos with Hamilton.

"The history of Spanish sport is full of examples such as these and a few individuals will not spoil this for us."