Nelson Piquet has apologised for making an “ill thought out” remark about Lewis Hamilton, but has denied it was racist or “intended to offend”.
His comments were widely condemned by the F1 community, while Hamilton said “archaic mindsets need to change”.
In a statement, Piquet, 69, said: “I would like to clear up the stories circulating in the media about a comment I made in an interview last year.
“What I said was ill thought out, and I make no defence 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 colour.
“I apologise 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.”
It has been reported by the BBC that Piquet will not be allowed back into F1 paddocks following his comments.
Brazilian novelist Paulo Coelho condemned Piquet on social media.
“Dear Lewis Hamilton,” he wrote. “Piquet is currently the driver of the worst president in our history. His racist remarks shows the desperate need to return to the spotlight. I apologise in the name of the Brazilian people, who respect and love you.”
Hamilton, who has campaigned strongly against racism and tried to improve diversity and inclusion in the sport, said Piquet’s remarks were part of a larger problem.
“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.”
Several drivers have come to Hamilton’s support, including Ferrari’s Charles Leclerc, who wrote on Twitter: “Knowing Lewis since I arrived in F1, he has always been extremely respectful to me and everyone that he meets.
“Those values should be the standard towards anybody around the world.
“The comments made towards Lewis should not be tolerated. We should continue to push for a more diverse and inclusive sport. We need to remove discriminatory behaviour and racist language in any form, from not just our sport, but our society as well.”
Hamilton’s Mercedes team-mate George Russell posted: “Huge respect to LH. He has done more for the sport than any driver in history, not just on track but off it. The fact that he and so many others are STILL having to deal with this behaviour is unacceptable. We all need to stand together against discrimination of any kind.”
McLaren’s Daniel Ricciardo also posted to say: “Discrimination and racism has no place in this sport or our society. Those who still choose to spread hate and use those words are no friend of mine.
“I want to acknowledge Lewis and all the work he has done both on and off the track to not only spread messages of equality but combat that hate.
“I’ve never dealt with any racially motivated actions, but he has for his entire life. Yet, each time his response to the hate is motivated by maturity, positivity and educating the world on how we should act. I stand with him and will do whatever I can to follow and support.”
There has not yet been a comment from Red Bull, whose lead driver Max Verstappen is the partner of Piquet’s daughter Kelly.
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