Nelson Piquet has apologized “wholeheartedly” to Lewis Hamilton – but “strongly condemns any suggestion” the expression he used when referring to the F1 ace during an interview was racially offensive.
The three-time world champion – who is the father of Max Verstappen’s partner, Kelly Piquet – reportedly used a racial slur in Portuguese when discussing a collision between Hamilton and Verstappen during the 2021 British GP on a Brazilian podcast last November.
The word the 69-year-old used is reported to be an equivalent or similar to the N-word.
But he insisted the word he used had been mistranslated and denied it “was used by me with the aim of belittling a driver because of his skin color”.
Piquet said in a statement: “I would like to clear up the stories circulating in the media about a comment I made in an interview last year.
“What I said was ill thought out, and I make no defense for it, but I will clarify that the term used is one that has widely and historically been used colloquially in Brazilian Portuguese as a synonym for ‘guy’ or ‘person’ and was never intended to offend.
“I would never use the word I have been accused of in some translations. I strongly condemn any suggestion that the word was used by me with the aim of belittling a driver because of his skin colour.
“I apologise wholeheartedly to anyone that was affected, including Lewis, who is an incredible driver, but the translation in some media that is now circulating on social media is not correct. Discrimination has no place in F1 or society and I am happy to clarify my thoughts in that respect.”
The PA news agency understands that Piquet’s access to the Formula 1 paddock was likely to be revoked if he did not publicly apologise.
His comments came to light yesterday, and Formula 1’s governing body FIA and Hamilton’s team Mercedes immediately condemned “in the strongest terms any use of racist or discriminatory language of any kind”.
Hamilton also responded, tweeting: “It’s more than language. These archaic mindsets need to change and have no place in our sport. I’ve been surrounded by these attitudes and targeted my whole life. There has been plenty of time to learn. Time has come for action.”
Fellow Mercedes driver George Russell and Ferrari’s Charles Leclerc also gave Hamilton their full backing by posting messages of support on Twitter.
Russell said Hamilton has “done more for the sport than any driver in history, not just on track but off it”, adding: “The fact that he and so many others are STILL having to deal with this behavior is unacceptable. We all need to stand together against discrimination of any kind.”
Leclerc said: “Knowing Lewis since I arrived in Formula 1, he has always been extremely respectful to me and everyone that he meets. Those values should be the standard to anybody around the world.
“The comments made towards Lewis should not be tolerated, and we should continue to push for a more diverse and inclusive sport. We need to remove discriminatory behavior and racist language in any form from not just our sport, but our society as well.”