Nelson Piquet Apologizes to Lewis Hamilton, Says He Was Mistranslated

·2 min read
Photo credit: Formula 1 - Getty Images
Photo credit: Formula 1 - Getty Images

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Three-time Formula 1 champion Nelson Piquet came under fire Tuesday after audio of him calling seven-time champ Lewis Hamilton the Brazilian Portuguese equivalent of the N-word emerged. Hamilton along with his Mercedes team, a number of drivers, and F1 itself quickly condemned Piquet. Piquet released a statement on Wednesday apologizing to Hamilton, while denying the racist connotations of his language.

"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," Piquet said, per Sky News. "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. Discrimination has no place in F1 or society and I am happy to clarify my thoughts in that respect."

Piquet used the word in question in a podcast recorded last year when discussing the crash at the 2021 British Grand Prix between Hamilton and Red Bull's Max Verstappen. It should be noted that Verstappen is dating Piquet's daughter, Kelly.

Hamilton has been very outspoken in recent years about the racism he's faced as F1's only Black driver, and has very publicly supported the Black Lives Matter movement. His influence led to F1's "We Race as One" campaign for social justice, and the creation of the Hamilton Commission, which aims to boost Black representation in U.K. motorsport. In a tweet yesterday, Hamilton 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."

This is not the first time Piquet has been accused of using offensive language. As The Guardian points out, he made defamatory claims that Ayrton Senna was gay and called Nigel Mansell's wife "ugly." Piquet is also aligned with Brazil's far-right leader Jair Bolsonaro.

At the time of writing, Hamilton has yet to respond to Piquet's statement.

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