The Circuit de Catalunya has responded to criticism over the playing of the Catalan anthem at last week’s Spanish Grand Prix.

The president of the Royal Spanish Automobile Federation Manuel Aviñó Roger accused the race’s promoters of using the event to promote a “political message” by playing the anthem ahead of Sunday’s race.

Aviñó claimed the performance of the anthem was an “alteration of protocol”. However the circuit issued a statement stating both the Catalan and Spanish anthems were performed at every Spanish Grand Prix it has hosted.

“Ever since 1991, the year in which the first Spanish Grand Prix was staged at Circuit de Barcelona-Catalunya, both anthems have been played on the grid 14 minutes before the start of the race,” it said. “The procedure to play these anthems has always been the same: first the Spanish anthem, and then the Catalan anthem.

“During this opening ceremony, and ever since the first edition of the event, both flags are shown: the Spanish flag and the Catalan flag. In fact, a new format for the ceremony was introduced in 2015, on the request of Formula 1, with the attendance of authorities and the drivers at the head of the grid, in front of the flags, to provide it with more solemnity

The circuit owners pointed out Aviñó has been present on the grid during the performance of the Catalan anthem. “Last year Mr Aviñó attended the ceremony for the first time, as President of the Royal Spanish Motorsport Federation, and during the ceremony, both anthems were played and both flags were shown.”

“Circuit de Barcelona-Catalunya wants to express and state that it has always shown the utmost respect towards the Spanish and Catalan symbols,” it added.

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