Retired Formula One legend Nelson Piquet has apologised ‘to anyone that was affected’ after referring to Sir Lewis Hamilton with the N-word during an interview.
It comes as the Brazilian motor racing legend faces a severe backlash from fans for using the racial slur, including a ban by Formula One.
In a statement, he said: ‘What I said was ill thought out, and I make no defence for it.’
Piquet used the derogatory Portuguese phrase ‘neguinho’ while referring to the seven-time world champion on a podcast with the Brazilian publication Motorsport Talks in November last year – but the story surfaced in Britain yesterday.
Explaining his actions, he added: ‘I strongly condemn any suggestion that the word was used by me with the aim of belittling a driver because of his skin colour.
Lewis Hamilton is seen entering an address in north London, pictured for the first time since Nelson Piquet used racially abusive language about the F1 driver
69-year-old Piquet has issued an apology for referring to Hamilton (pictured) using the N-word in a podcast last November
‘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.’
Earlier today, former world champion Damon Hill has called on Formula One to show ‘decent human values’ and take firm action against Piquet, whose words were ‘beyond the pale’.
Hill said: ”I don’t think he’d [Piquet] be very welcome if he did turn up [in the paddock]… I’ve always felt Nelson was a bit of an acquired taste, and I didn’t really acquire the taste.
‘This is beyond the pale now. Even allowing for possible misunderstandings in the difference in languages between the Brazilian term and here, certainly it’s something that demands an apology.
Nelson Piquet has been blasted by Formula One bosses after the comments came to light. He had been speaking on a Brazilian podcast (pictured) about an incident between Max Verstappen and the seven-time world champion
‘But I’m not sure what sort of apology would be sufficient. It’s very sad, really.
‘Poor Lewis for having to put up with this constantly. It’s blighted his experience of being a Formula One driver, perhaps more than we’ll ever understand.’
BBC Sports chief F1 writer Andrew Benson tweeted that F1 insiders told him Piquet will not be allowed back into the paddock following the controversy.
Piquet, who won the world title in 1981, 83 and 87, had been discussing the collision between Hamilton and Max Verstappen on the first lap of last year’s British Grand Prix.
Piquet recorded the interview in Portuguese and the footage was uploaded onto YouTube in March. It was translated into English after gaining traction on social media on Monday, ahead of the first anniversary of the crash.
The former driver – whose daughter Kelly Piquet, 33, is dating Verstappen – had suggested Hamilton pushed Verstappen off the track on purpose, ending his race.
He said: ‘The neguinho put the car in the wrong way and didn’t let [the other driver swerve].’
Max Verstappen has been criticised by outraged Formula One fans after he has remained silent over his partner’s father Nelson Piquet using the N-word to describe Sir Lewis Hamilton in an interview
Hamilton hit back, writing ‘Imagine’ next to a tweet which said, ‘what if Lewis Hamilton just tweeted, ‘Who the f*** is Nelson Piquet?’
The 37-year-old added: ‘It’s more than language. These are 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.’
He also posted a message in Portuguese – Piquet’s native language – reading, ‘let’s focus on changing the mindset.’
F1 fans have since flooded Hamilton’s social media with messages of support – while others have been left furious by the ‘deafening silence’ from Red Bull, Verstappen, and Christian Horner, the Team Principal of the Red Bull Formula One team.
Joey M wrote: ‘Max Verstappen is very quiet on here today. His silence gives us an indication of the type of person he is.’
F1 racing fans have been left furious by the ‘deafening silence’ from Red Bull, Verstappen, and Christian Horner – the Team Principal of the Red Bull Formula One team
The Brazilian ex-racing driver had been discussing an incident between Red Bull’s Verstappen and Lewis Hamilton, pictured, at the British Grand Prix last year. The pair collided on lap one of the race at Silverstone ending the Dutchman’s race
Piquets daughter Kelly, pictured after the Abi Dhabi Grand Prix last year, is dating Dutch driver Max Verstappen. He described the incident as a ‘joke’ on the podcast, and said that Hamilton had been ‘lucky’ that Verstappen only crashed
It comes as the former world champion Piquet has been warned that he could face a ban from Formula One if he doesn’t publicly apologise to Hamilton following the comments.
Another fan took to Twitter and wrote: ‘Very quiet from the world champion who will be leading the brand going forward. [He’s] clearly okay with racism in the sport’.
Will Pawson also tweeted: ‘The silence from Max Verstappen is deafening.’
Supporters of Piquet on social media insisted his interview had been misinterpreted and argued the word was a commonly used slang term.
Meanwhile, F1 aces Charles Leclerc, Esteban Ocon and Zhou Guanyu have leapt to Hamilton’s support and praised his ‘values’ both on and off the track.
Leclerc wrote: ‘Knowing Lewis since I arrived in Formula One, 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, and 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 society as well.’
Esteban Ocon also put out a statement condemning racism and said Hamilton is ‘always genuine and respectful with everyone around him.’
‘All racist or discriminatory language has absolutely no part in our sport and our society. Enough is enough. I’ve worked and spent time with Lewis over the years and know the kind of person he is. Always genuine and respectful with everyone around him. He has done so much for F1, on and off the track, and we are proud to have him at the forefront of our fight for further diversity and inclusion in motorsport.
‘I stand with Lewis and his continued efforts to make the sport we love a better place for all.’
Guanyu added: ‘I join lewis and the motorsport community in standing against any form of racism, discrimination and prejudice.’
It is not the first time Hamilton has spoken out about racial abuse, having previously clashed with ex-F1 chief Bernie Ecclestone who last year suggested Formula One’ was not racist’ and claimed Hamilton was ‘being used’ by the Black Lives Matter movement.
Piquet previously called Nigel Mansell an ‘uneducated blockhead’ and described his wife Roseanne as ‘ugly.’
Formula One chiefs slammed the former Brazilian champion for making the comments during an interview, but did not name him.
In a statement they said: ‘Discriminatory or racist language is unacceptable in any form and has no part 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 something we are committed to at F1.’
Hamilton’s teammate George Russell has also hit out at the comments, adding: ‘Huge respect to Lewis Hamilton.
Ecclestone, 91, has insisted Hamilton ‘misunderstood’ his view but he is ‘entitled to his opinion’ on the need for increased opportunities in the sport. He added that he believes Hamilton is ‘being used’ by the Black Lives Matter movement
‘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.’
Piquet used the racial slur while expressing his opinion that Hamilton had made a mistake by crashing into the Dutch driver, and ending his race.
The Mercedes driver was handed a ten-second penalty for the incident, but went on to win the race and cut his points deficit to Verstappen.
Verstappen was sent crashing into the barriers at the side of the track at a force of 52G and needed to be taken to a nearby hospital for precautionary checks.
The opening lap ended abruptly for the Red Bull driver, 24, after colliding with his championship rival at Silverstone’s notorious Copse corner.
Piquet, whose daughter Kelly, pictured, is dating Verstappen, has previously made a series of unpleasant statements about other racing drivers during his career
This weekend’s British Grand Prix marks a year since the heated incident, which was one in a series between the two championship rivals as they fought for last year’s world title.
The Dutchman won his first world title after seeing off Hamilton last season in the sport where he has gained a reputation for being hot headed on and off the track.
During the final round of the F1 calendar last year he was heard voicing his frustrations at a late safety car caused by Nicholas Latifi.
He voiced his frustration over the team radio, saying: Yeah, of course, typical decision’ before race director Michael Masi dramatically reversed his call to allow only the lapped cars to overtake leaving a one-lap head-to-head fight between the title contenders.
Verstappen was also caught on camera pushing Esteban Ocon after the Brazilian Grand Prix in 2018, after the French driver clumsily tried to unlap himself.
He had been cruising to win the race before the incident, and was heard seething ‘I hope I can’t find him now in the paddock because that guy has a f***ing problem.’
During the first race of this season Verstappen struggled to overtake Ferrari’s Charles Leclerc, and voiced his frustrations at his team.
Following the comments, Hamilton hit back, writing ‘Imagine’ next to a tweet which said, ‘what if Lewis Hamilton just tweeted, ‘Who the f*** is Nelson Piquet?’
After trying to clear the Monegasque driver for the second time he shouted at his team for advising him to take it easy on his tyres, yelling ‘I am never, ever doing it again!’
The championship battle ended in controversy during the 2021 Abu Dhabi Grand Prix which saw Verstappen win his first world title on the last lap of the race.
In a statement Mercedes said: ‘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 track.
‘Together, we share a vision for a diverse and inclusive motorsport, and this incident underlines the fundamental importance of continuing to strive for a brighter future.’
Mercedes have raced in black for the past two seasons as ‘a stand against racism and discrimination in all forms and a public pledge to further improve the diversity of our team and our sport.’