Nelson Piquet apologises to Lewis Hamilton over comments but denies racial intent
Nelson Piquet admits comments were "ill thought out" but insists he did not intend them as racial slur; "I apologise wholeheartedly to anyone that was affected, including Lewis, who is an incredible driver," says Piquet, who claims translation of comments was not correct
Last Updated: 30/06/22 6:14am
Nelson Piquet has apologised "wholeheartedly" to Lewis Hamilton but "strongly condemns any suggestion" he racially abused his fellow Formula 1 world champion, claiming his comments have been mis-translated.
An interview with the Brazilian from last year surfaced this week, in which he twice used a racially offensive expression when referring to Hamilton.
It led to widespread condemnation from the whole F1 paddock, with Hamilton himself calling for "action" and insisting that "archaic mindsets need to change and have no place in our sport".
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On Wednesday, Piquet issued his own statement where he said he wanted to "clear up the stories".
"What I said was ill thought out, and I make no defence for it," said Piquet, a three-time F1 champion.
"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."
Sky Sports News understands that Piquet will not be allowed back into the paddock after his comments, which were made last November when discussing the crash between Hamilton and Max Verstappen at the 2021 British GP.
In response, Hamilton sent a series of tweets. He said: "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."
He also tweeted "Vamos focar em mudar a mentalidade", which is Portuguese for "Let's focus on changing the mentality."
Piquet is the father of Verstappen's partner, Kelly Piquet.
'Piquet not welcome in F1 paddock'
Sky Sports News' Craig Slater:
"My understanding is that Nelson Piquet, notwithstanding this apology that has come out, for the foreseeable future at least will not be welcome in the Formula 1 paddock.
"I think these remarks which he made, the language that he used in this interview from November last year, has registered deeply with those in leadership positions in the sport.
"Let's see what the drivers, team bosses and others make of it in the next 24 hours. It's media day at Silverstone on Thursday and we will get the views of all of those competing in the event.
"Piquet has spoken of colloquialisms in Brazilian-Portuguese, which has been a part of controversies we have had related to this in the past involving other high-profile sportsmen.
"He has given an apology, but my understanding is this has been beyond the pale and that for the foreseeable future he will not be welcome back into the Formula 1 paddock."
F1 condemns Piquet comments, drivers show Hamilton support
Piquet's comments were strongly criticised by the F1 and governing body FIA, while drivers and teams also voiced their support for Hamilton, the sport's most successful driver and seven-time champion.
Hamilton's team-mate George Russell was first to back Hamilton, posting on social media: "Huge respect to LH. He has done more for the sport than any driver in history, not just on track but off it.
"The fact that he and so many others are STILL having to deal with this behaviour is unacceptable. We all need to stand together against discrimination of any kind."
Ferrari driver Charles Leclerc also criticised Piquet's comments. Writing on Twitter, he said: "Knowing Lewis since I arrived in Formula 1, he has always been kind and respectful to me and everyone that he meets. Those values should be the standard towards 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 behaviour and racist language in any form from not just our sport, but our society as well."
McLaren's Daniel Ricciardo also showed his support for Hamilton, posting a message on Instagram that read: "Discrimination and racism has no place in this sport or our society. Those who still choose to spread hate and use those words are no friend of mine.
"I want to acknowledge Lewis and all the work he has done both on and off the track to not only spread messages of equality but combat that hate.
"I've never dealt with any racially motivated actions, but he has for his entire life. Yet, each time his response to the hate is motivated by maturity, positivity and educating the world on how we should act.
"I stand with him and will do whatever I can to follow and support.
Similar sentiments were also echoed by Alpine's Esteban Ocon, who also took to Instagram, writing: "All racist and discriminatory language has absolutely no part in our sport and our society. Enough is enough.
"I've worked and spent time with Lewis over the years and know the kind of person he is. Always genuine and respectful with everyone around him.
"He has done so much for F1, on and off the track, and we are proud to have him at the forefront of our fight for further diversity and inclusion in motorsport.
"I stand with Lewis and his continued efforts to make the sport we love a better place for all."