Lewis Hamilton says 'time has come for action' as Nelson Piquet apologises for racist slur

In an interview on YouTube Piquet, 69, used the remark in Portuguese when referring to the seven-time world champion

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Three-time F1 world champion Nelson Piquet has apologised "wholeheartedly" to Lewis Hamilton after using a racially offensive term to describe the Mercedes star.

Hamilton said the "time has come for action" following Piquet's remarks, while Formula One and motorsport's governing body the FIA condemned the 69-year-old Brazilian.

"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," 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 first lap of last year's British Grand Prix when he used the term.

"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," said Piquet.

"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."

Piquet is a supporter of Brazil's far-right President Jair Bolsonaro, and was a chauffeur to him on the country's Independence Day last year.

Hamilton, the only black driver on the grid, has been an outspoken campaigner for greater diversity in the sport.

The seven-time world champion regularly displayed "Black Lives Matter" on his apparel and took the knee before races in the 2020 season following the murder of George Floyd in the US.

Hamilton had called for action to change "archaic mindsets" after Piquet's remark emerged on social media, triggering widespread condemnation.

In a Brazilian interview on YouTube in November, Piquet used a racial slur when referring to the seven-time world champion, when commenting on Hamilton's British Grand Prix crash with Verstappen.

He also said Hamilton had "played dirty" in the incident. Piquet's daughter Kelly is Verstappen's partner, and the comments resurfaced as the drivers prepare to return to Silverstone this weekend.

"It's more than language. These archaic mindsets need to change and have no place in our sport," the Mercedes driver responded on Twitter.

"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."

(FILES) In this file photo taken on May 29, 2019, former Formula One drivers Nelson Piquet, right, and Jean Alesi, centre, and British Formula One champion Lewis Hamilton, left, escort the coffin of late Austrian three-time Formula One world champion Niki Lauda. AFP
Updated: June 29, 2022, 1:35 PM