While Max Verstappen did say the language Nelson Piquet used in reference to Lewis Hamilton was “not correct,” the Red Bull driver was quick to say the three-time world champion is “definitely not a racist.”
“Everyone is against racism; it’s very straight,” Verstappen said Thursday. “There’s nothing more you can make of that. I think the wording that was used, even with the different kind of cultures and things they probably said when they were younger, was not correct.
“Let it be a lesson for the future not to use that word because it’s very offensive, especially nowadays it gains more traction.”
In an interview conducted late last year, Piquet used a derogatory term when discussing Hamilton and 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.
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 is “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 added, “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.”
Piquet did issue an apology on 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.”
Verstappen did defend Piquet’s character, saying it’s unfair to label the three-time world champion a racist after this one incident.
"I've spent a bit of time with Nelson, probably more than the average person in general, and he's definitely not a racist," Verstappen said. "He's actually a nice and pretty relaxed guy. Also the statement he released, I think you can see the word in two ways, but I think it is still just better not to use it.
“But it’s not only about that word, it’s not about the n-word, in general, it’s using offensive language to anyone of any colour, is not correct. And that’s what we have to work on all over the world, not just in F1 with Lewis but to anyone in the world.”
Verstappen said he has not spoken to Piquet about the controversy.
“It’s not up to me to talk to my father-in-law. Like any of you [talking to your father-in-law] and say, ‘Hey man, that’s not correct.’ I think he knows that himself.”
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