Lewis Hamilton has said “now is the time to act” after a video emerged showing three-time world champion Nelson Piquet using racist language while talking about the British driver. Piquet used the term in an interview that was done last year but was made public on Monday evening.
Formula 1 and Hamilton’s Mercedes team had already condemned Piquet on Tuesday morning, but Hamilton reacted angrily via Twitter, saying: “It’s more than language. These archaic mentalities must change and have no place in our sport. I have been surrounded by these attitudes and targeted all my life. There was a lot of time to learn. The time has come to act.
Piquet was speaking to Motorsport Talk’s Ricardo Oliveira in Portuguese in November about Hamilton’s clash with Red Bull’s Max Verstappen at the 2021 British Grand Prix, which ended with the Dutch driver crashing and an impact major with barriers.
Video of the interview was picked up by Brazilian media, including CNN, who reported his remarks as he spoke about the incident. It included an epithet which can be translated as the N-word.
F1, which has a clear anti-racism platform under the We Race As One banner, quickly condemned Piquet. He released a statement that read, “Discriminatory or racist language is unacceptable in any form and has no place in society. Lewis is an incredible ambassador for our sport and deserves respect. His tireless efforts to increase diversity and inclusion are a lesson to many and we are committed to F1.”
Mercedes, who has supported the seven-time champion’s outspoken efforts to promote anti-racism and diversity, also immediately expressed support for his driver.
“We condemn in the strongest terms any use of racist or discriminatory language of any kind. Lewis has spearheaded our sport’s efforts to combat racism, and he is a true champion of diversity on and off the track,” their statement read. “Together we share a vision for a diverse and inclusive motorsport, and this incident underscores the fundamental importance of continuing to fight for a better future.”
Others were quick to react with BBC presenter Gary Lineker describing the former world champion as an “awful guy” in a tweet linked to the initial Hamilton story.
Piquet, now 69, won the world championship in 1981, 1983 and 1987. His daughter Kelly Piquet is Verstappen’s partner. The Brazilian driver has a habit of making nasty comments, including, while driving, a defamatory accusation towards Ayrton Senna of being gay and calling Nigel Mansell’s wife ‘ugly’. Last year, Piquet drove Brazil’s President Jair Bolsonaro on the country’s Independence Day.
F1’s governing body, the FIA, also criticized Piquet’s comments. “The FIA strongly condemns any racist or discriminatory language and behaviour, which has no place in sport or in society in general,” reads its press release. “We express our solidarity with @LewisHamilton and fully support his commitment to equality, diversity and inclusion in motorsport.”
The FIA, however, did not say whether it would take action against Piquet.
F1 has yet to say whether it will take any punitive action against Piquet, such as banning him from attending races. Piquet has not yet responded to the Guardian’s request for comment or clarification of his statement.