Three-time Formula One world champion Nelson Piquet issued an apology to F1 star Lewis Hamilton on Wednesday over recently resurfaced comments that he had made on a podcast last November in which he referred to Hamilton using a racially-charged phrase. Piquet also offered an explanation of the comments he made, which have been met with condemnation from Hamilton and top racing governing bodies.
During a podcast last November discussing the 2021 championship battle between Hamilton and Max Verstappen — who is dating Piquet’s daughter Kelly — Piquet criticized Hamilton for a collision with Verstappen during the British Grand Prix, referring to him as “o neguinho” multiple times during the interview — which was conducted in Portuguese.
According to the Associated Press, the term translates to English as “little Black guy.” Hamilton is the only Black driver in Formula 1 racing. In his apology, Piquet released a statement saying he would not be defending his comments, and also that he did not use a slur toward the seven-time F1 world champion.
“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 color.”
Piquet’s statement continued: “I apologize 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.”
Discriminatory or racist language is unacceptable in any form and has no part in our society. Lewis is an incredible ambassador for out 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 called Piquet’s mindset an “archaic” one that has “no place in our sport,” and his team Mercedes-AMG offered a statement on Twitter that reads, in part, “We condemn in the strongest terms any use of racist language or discriminatory language of any kind…Together we share a vision for a diverse and inclusive motorsport and this incident underlines the fundamental importance od continuing to strive for a brighter future.”
According to a report by Motorsport.com, Piquet is now being disallowed inside the F1 paddock.