Three-time Formula 1 world champion Nelson Piquet apologized to Lewis Hamilton on Wednesday after using a racially offensive term to describe the Mercedes star. Hamilton said the “time for action has come” after Piquet’s comments, as Formula 1 and motorsport’s governing body the FIA condemned the 69-year-old Brazilian. “I sincerely apologize to everyone affected, including Lewis who is an incredible driver, but the translation in some media now circulating on social media is not correct,” Piquet said in a statement.
Piquet, who won the world title in 1981, 1983 and 1987, was discussing an accident between Hamilton and Red Bull’s Max Verstappen on the opening lap of last year’s British Grand Prix when he used the term.
His daughter, Kelly, is Verstappen’s partner.
“What I said was ill-considered, and I’m not going to defend it, but I’ll clarify that the term used is one that has been commonly and historically used in Brazilian Portuguese as a synonym for ‘man’ or ‘person’ and was never intended to to insult,” said Piquet.
“In some translations, I would never use the word I have been accused of. I strongly condemn any suggestion that the word has been used by me for the purpose of belittling a driver because of the color of his skin.”
Piquet is a supporter of Brazil’s far-right president, Jair Bolsonaro, and was a driver for him on the country’s Independence Day last year.
Hamilton, the only black driver on the grid, is an outspoken campaigner for more diversity in the sport.
The seven-time world champion regularly displayed “Black Lives Matter” on his clothing and knelt for races in the 2020 season after George Floyd’s murder in the US.
Hamilton has also campaigned for LGBTQ+ rights and environmental issues.
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