One of the biggest headlines to emerge from the Formula One community heading into the British Grand Prix weekend has been the reaction to Nelson Piquet’s racist language used in reference to Lewis Hamilton.
Earlier this week, Formula One, the FIA and Mercedes all condemned the racist language used by Piquet but did not name him in their respective statements Tuesday. However, Hamilton said on Thursday that the “knee-jerk reaction” of condemning racism was “not enough,” adding: “You’ve got to imagine that everyone’s PR agency have a script ready for something like that, crisis management. It’s not enough. Now it’s about actual real action.”
The seven-time world champion continued, “It just comes back down to F1, to the media … we should not be giving these people a platform. These old voices are … whether they subconsciously or consciously do not agree that people like me, for example, should be in a sport like this, do not agree that women should be here. Discrimination is not something we should be projecting and promoting and giving a platform to create and divide people.”
In an interview conducted late last year, Piquet used the derogatory term when discussing Hamilton and Max Verstappen’s first-lap collision during last season’s British Grand Prix. Piquet, who is the father of Verstappen’s partner, Kelly, commented on the Mercedes star’s handling of the car. Piquet said Hamilton “put his car there to hit him on purpose,” later adding “he wanted to take him out no matter the cost.”
According to Sky Sports’ translation of the Portuguese interview, the Brazilian used the term twice during the discussion. The reference translates to “little Black guy,” per The Race and Associated Press. Piquet has reportedly been banned from the F1 paddock as a result.
The three-time F1 world champion issued an apology Wednesday, saying, in part, “What I said was ill thought out, and I make no defence for it, but the term used 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 aim of belittling a driver because of his skin colour.”
Former F1 CEO Bernie Ecclestone, who previously made headlines after saying he’d “take a bullet” for Russian president Vladimir Putin, said he was “surprised Lewis hasn’t just brushed it aside, or better than that, replied” in the same interview.
He added, “It's probably not appropriate with us but probably it isn't something terrible that happens if you said that in Brazil.
“But people say things, and people talk about people if they happen to be little bit overweight, or a little bit undersized like me. I’m quite sure people have made remarks about that. If I’d have heard it, I’d have been able to deal with it myself without too much trouble.”
Hamilton said on Thursday, “I’ve been on the receiving end of racism, criticism, negativity and archaic narratives, for a long, long time, and undertones of discrimination.” He added that “it’s more about the bigger picture.”
“They’re speaking on our sport and we’re looking to go somewhere completely different, and I don’t think it’s representative of who we are as a sport and where we’re planning to go,” the Mercedes star said Thursday. “If we’re looking to grow in the U.S. and other countries, South Africa, and grow our audience and look into the future and give younger people a platform that is more representative of today’s time and who we are trying to be and the direction we are going.
“So it’s not just about one individual. It’s not just about one use of that term. It’s the bigger picture.”
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