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28 Jun, 2022 14:01

Hamilton engulfed in F1 racism row after comments from former champ

Nelson Piquet is accused of racially insulting the British star
Hamilton engulfed in F1 racism row after comments from former champ

Seven-time F1 world champion Lewis Hamilton has demanded action after a video emerged of fellow motorsport great Nelson Piquet using an alleged racial slur to refer to the Brit.

In the video filmed late last year but only made public on Monday afternoon, Brazilian three-time world champion Piquet attached the term 'neguinho' to Hamilton.

The Portuguese word literally translates to 'little black', and is often used as a term of endearment in a multicultural society where families and groups of friends are often mixed race.

If used in a certain tone or in a harsh context, however, the word can be perceived as racist with Hamilton and his supporters taking offense in this situation.

Hamilton addressed the row on social media and tweeted: "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,” he added.

Before that, Hamilton wrote in Portuguese: "Let's focus on changing the mentality" and also said "imagine" when a user pondered what the reaction would be if Hamilton tweeted: "Who the f*ck is Nelson Piquet?" then closed his account. 

In the November interview with Motorsport Talk, Piquet was discussing a crash at the British Grand Prix last year that resulted in Piquet's daughter's boyfriend and current world champion Max Verstappen going off the track and crashing into the barriers after clashing with Hamilton. 

Formula One has been quick to condemn Piquet and said that 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," the championship added.

Joining the criticism was Hamilton's team Mercedes, who have supported the 37-year-old's Black Lives Matter-inspired anti-racism and diversity efforts. 

"Lewis has spearheaded our sport’s efforts to combat racism, and he is a true champion of diversity on and off track," read a statement from the German manufacturer after it also condemned Piquet's words. 

"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," it also said.

Motorsport governing body the FIA joined the pile-on and said that such language and behavior has "no place in our sport or wider society".

It expressed solidarity with Hamilton, yet stopped short of revealing whether action would be taken against Piquet.

Aged 69, Piquet has courted controversy throughout his life in the spotlight amid world championship wins in 1981, 1983, and 1987.

Once accusing compatriot and bitter rival, in addition to Hamilton's idol, Ayrton Senna of being gay, he also remarked that Nigel Mansell's wife was "ugly".

Piquet's comments related to Hamilton have seen him draw criticism from those on the left in Brazil, where Hamilton is immensely popular and even brandished the country's flag after his most recent win at the iconic Interlagos track in Sao Paulo's southern suburbs.

This is due to Piquet's known support of far-right Brazilian president Jair Bolsonaro, who Piquet chauffeured last year during the South American nation's Independence Day. 

Currently sixth in the drivers' standings as Verstappen leads the pack, Hamilton returns to action at the British Grand Prix this weekend.