- Former world champion used derogatory term in Portuguese
- Mercedes: ‘Lewis is a true champion of diversity on and off track’
Lewis Hamilton has said “the time has come for action” after a video emerged with the three-times F1 world champion Nelson Piquet using racist language when speaking about the British driver. Piquet used the term in an interview that was conducted last year but which was released publicly on Monday night.
Formula One and Hamilton’s Mercedes team had already condemned Piquet on Tuesday morning but Hamilton reacted with anger via Twitter, stating: “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.”
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. Its statement 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.”
The Guardian understands F1 will now not allow Piquet access to its races until he publicly apologises and also apologises to Hamilton.
Mercedes, who have supported the seven-time champion’s outspoken efforts to promote anti-racism and diversity, meanwhile 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.”
Others were quick to react with BBC presenter Gary Lineker describing the former world champion as a “dreadful bloke” in a tweet linking to the initial story about Hamilton.
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 was a chauffeur to Brazil’s president, Jair Bolsonaro, on 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.”
Piquet has yet to respond to the Guardian’s request for a comment or clarification of his statement.
On a bleak day for the sport, Red Bull terminated the contract of their test driver Jüri Vips over his use of a racial slur last week. Vips was heard using racist language during a live stream of a video game.
“Following its investigation into an online incident involving Jüri Vips, Oracle Red Bull Racing has terminated Jüri’s contract as its test and reserve driver,” the team said in a statement.
“The team do not condone any form of racism.”