F1 champion Sir Lewis Hamilton has spoken out about racism – following a comment by former driver Nelson Piquet.
In a powerful tweet, 37-year-old Hamilton wrote to his 7.5 million followers: ‘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.’
Hamilton also tweeted a similar sentiment in Portuguese, the language in which the offensive comment was made, writing: ‘Let’s focus on changing the mindset.’
But who is Nelson Piquet, exactly, and what was said that prompted Lewis Hamilton’s response?
Who is Nelson Piquet?
Nelson Piquet is a retired Formula One world champion from Brazil.
The former motorsport driver, 69, won the F1 world championship three times throughout his career. He raced his first (full) season on F1 in 1979, and won his titles in 1981, 1983 and 1987.
He officially retired in February 1992.
Hamilton, meanwhile, has been world champion seven times so far – and was recently given a knighthood by The Queen.
What did Nelson Piquet say about Lewis Hamilton?
Piquet used a racial term aimed at Hamilton in an interview given last year, at the time of the 2021 British Grand Prix. The clip was recently released publicly in Brazil.
The word, said in Brazilian Portuguese, can be translated to the vile n-word slur in English.
Piquet was discussing Hamilton’s collision with rival Max Verstappen at Silverstone, which left the Dutch driver in hospital, when the term was used – saying Hamilton had ‘put the car in the wrong way’.
(Verstappen, as it happens, is currently dating Piquet’s daughter Kelly).
In light of the interview clip surfacing, Piquet apologised for the usage and claimed the term was ‘used as a synonym for ‘guy’ or ‘person’ in his native language.
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 defence 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.’
Many have spoken out in support of Hamilton, including F1 itself, which said in a statement: ‘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.’
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