F1 icon facing eye-watering fine amid racist abuse of Lewis Hamilton – media
Nelson Piquet is facing a court hearing and a potential £1.5 million fine
Ex-Formula 1 champion Nelson Piquet is due in court in his native Brazil where he could be hit with a fine of £1.5 million after a human rights group pressed charges against the 69-year-old for causing ‘moral damage’ to black and the LGBTQ+ community following his controversial comments against Lewis Hamilton, according to the Mirror.
Footage showing Piquet referring to British driver Hamilton with Brazilian-Portuguese racist and homophobic terms during a podcast filmed in November became viral online last month – with Piquet using the terms while discussing Hamilton’s tussle with rival Max Verstappen at least season’s British Grand Prix.
Piquet has since apologized for using the controversial language and denied that it was intended to have racist overtones.
However, his apology wasn’t quite enough for the human rights group to lodge a formal complaint – with a Sao Paolo subsequently ordering an investigation.
Piquet will now have 15 days to arrange a defence to judge Felipe Costa da Fonseca Gomes of the Distrito Federal court – with charges including a request that Piquet be fined £1.5 million ($1.8 million) for using the offensive terms.
The Brazilian’s interview was strongly criticized in F1 circles, including by well-regarded names like Damon Hill and Jenson Button.
Piquet, though, says that his comments were not intended to be offensive.
“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,” he said.
“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 color.
“I apologize 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.”
Hamilton did not accept the apology.
The British driver, who is tied with Michael Schumacher for the most world championships in the sport’s history, said that Piquet’s comments were evidence that F1 is in dire need of a culture shift.
“It’s more than language,” Hamilton said.
“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.”
Reports of Piquet being due in court come after three Brazilian politicians accused him of being guilty of a racial crime, and asked that the courts launch a probe.
Both F1 and Hamilton’s team, Mercedes, have also indicated their anger at Piquet’s remarks, with a Formula 1 officials stating that they are “unacceptable in any form and has no part in society.”