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Former F1 Champion Levels Racist Slur Vs Lewis Hamilton But Insists It Wasn't Meant as an Insult

From racer to racist?
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Three-time Formula 1 world champion Nelson Piquet is in hot water after allegedly calling fellow F1 world champion Lewis Hamilton the “N” word. The retired F1 driver from Brazil used the Portuguese version of the racial slur to describe Hamilton during the controversial collision between the latter and Max Verstappen during the Grand Prix at Silverstone in 2021. 

The video of Piquet using the slur happened in November last year but only surfaced on Monday (June 27) when the interview was released.

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Verstappen, who was the 2021 world champion, is dating Piquet’s daughter, Kelly Piquet, a Brazilian model who is always seen at the races supporting her F1 champion boyfriend.  

Kelly seemed to support his father’s controversial slur by “liking” a post on Instagram by Rodrigo Piquet, a cousin and her father’s nephew. In the post, Rodrigo said their grandmother calls all her kids the “N” word.

Hamilton, a seven-time Formula One world champion, is tied with F1 great Michael Schumacher with most world titles, although in many stats, the former outpaces the latter. The British driver and could’ve overtaken Schumacher last year by claiming an eighth win, but because of a controversial decision by F1’s race director Michael Masi, he lost the title to main rival Verstappen. 

Piquet apologizes

On Wednesday, the 69-year-old Piquet issued a public apology to Hamilton but said he didn’t mean the remark as an insult. 

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“I would like to clear up the stories circulating in the media about a comment I made in an interview last year,” Piquet said. “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

“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,” he added. “Discrimination has no place in F1 or society and I am happy to clarify my thoughts in that respect.”

The elder Piquet, who is considered one of the greatest F1 drivers, has the same number of titles as fellow Brazilian F1 champion, the late Ayrton Senna. In the past, Piquet would frequently fire shots at Senna, including suggesting that Senna was gay. One time, when asked who was the better driver between the two, Piquet answered, “I am alive.”

Senna died in a race car crash in 1994.

There are now calls for Piquet to be banned from the F1 race paddocks.  

Condemnation

Meanwhile, Hamilton’s F1 team Mercedes-AMG quicky took to social media to condemn Piquet’s remarks.

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“We condemn in the strongest terms any use of racist or discriminatory language of any kind,” Mercedes-AMG said. “Lewis has spearheaded our sport’s efforts to combat racism, and he is a true champion of diversity on and off track.”

FIA, the sport’s governing body, likewise issued a statement.

“The FIA condemns any racist or discriminatory language and behaviour, which have no place in sport or wider society. We express our solidarity with Lewis Hamilton and ully support his commitment to equality, diversity, and inclusion in motor sport.”

Other race teams have condemned Piquet’s remarks, with the notable exception of the F1 Red Bull team, which said it won’t issue a statement on the matter. Verstappen is Red Bull’s lead driver. 

Coincidentally, Hamilton was bestowed an honorary citizenship by the Brazilian government last June 9.

"Speechless. Today I was granted honorary citizenship to one of my favorite places in the world. I don’t really have the words right now, thank you Brasil, I love you, I can’t wait to see you again,” Hamilton also professed his admiration for Senna, calling him his “greatest inspiration.”

“It was the way he raced, his passion for life and for the sport,” Hamilton said about the late Brazilian driver. “But more than anything it was the way he faced alone a system that wasn’t always kind to him. May Ayrton Senna’s legacy live on forever."

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