‘Unacceptable’: Nelson Piquet under fire for racist epithet about Lewis Hamilton
- Former world champion used derogatory term in Portuguese
- Mercedes: ‘Lewis is a true champion of diversity on and off track’
Formula One and the Mercedes team have condemned the three-time world champion Nelson Piquet for using racist language when speaking about Lewis Hamilton. Piquet used the term in an interview that was conducted last year but which was released publicly on Monday night. F1 has a commitment to oppose racism and encourage diversity in the sport.
Piquet was speaking in November to Motorsport Talk’s Ricardo Oliveira in Portuguese about Hamilton’s clash with Red Bull’s Max Verstappen at the British Grand Prix in 2021, which ended with the Dutch driver going off the track and suffering a major impact with the barriers.
The video of the interview was picked up by Brazilian media including CNN, which reported his words as he referred to the incident. It included an epithet that can be translated as the N-word.
F1, which has a clear anti-racist platform under the We Race As One banner, swiftly condemned Piquet. It issued a statement that read: “Discriminatory or racist language is unacceptable in any form and has no part in society. Lewis is an incredible ambassador for our sport and deserves respect. His tireless efforts to increase diversity and inclusion are a lesson to many and something we are committed to at F1.”
Hamilton’s Mercedes team, who have supported the seven-time champion’s outspoken efforts to promote anti-racism and diversity, also immediately expressed support for their driver.
“We condemn in the strongest terms any use of racist or discriminatory language of any kind. Lewis has spearheaded our sport’s efforts to combat racism, and he is a true champion of diversity on and off track,” their statement read. “Together, we share a vision for a diverse and inclusive motorsport, and this incident underlines the fundamental importance of continuing to strive for a brighter future.”
Piquet, now 69, won the world championship in 1981, 1983 and 1987. His daughter Kelly Piquet is Verstappen’s partner. The Brazilian driver has a record of issuing unpleasant comments, including, while he was driving, a defamatory accusation toward Ayrton Senna of being gay and referring to Nigel Mansell’s wife as “ugly”. Last year Piquet drove as a chauffeur to Brazil’s president, Jair Bolsonaro, at the country’s Independence Day.
F1’s governing body the FIA also criticised Piquet’s comments. “The FIA strongly condemns any racist or discriminatory language and behaviour, which have no place in sport or wider society,” its statement read. “We express our solidarity with @LewisHamilton and fully support his commitment to equality, diversity and inclusion in motor sport.”
The FIA did not state however whether it would take any action against Piquet.
F1 has yet to state whether it will take punitive action against Piquet, such as banning him from attending races. Piquet has yet to respond to the Guardian’s request for a comment or clarification of his statement.
- Formula One
- Lewis Hamilton
- Motor sport