Several of the most prominent entities in the Formula One world have spoken publicly in support of superstar driver Lewis Hamilton after former champion Nelson Piquet referred to him using a racial slur.
The Piquet quote came from a 2021 interview where he was talking about a crash at the British Grand Prix that involved Hamilton and fellow racing superstar Max Verstappen. In the interview with Motorsports Talk, which was conducted in Portuguese, Piquet called Hamilton the n-word, and said he “made a dirty move” when the collision happened. (Piquet’s daughter, Kelly, has been dating Verstappen since late 2020.)
Last July, after the crash happened, social media users harassed Hamilton online, which Formula 1 rebuked in a public statement reading“Opinion and rivalry are central to our sport. But there is absolutely on place for racism or discrimination.”
In a June 28 tweet Hamilton shared his thoughts on Piquet’s comments and demanded substantive change. “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 wrote.
Formula 1 issued a statement supporting Hamilton and saying that “Discriminatory or racist language is unacceptable in any form and has no part in society,” though it declined to mention Piquet by name. Mercedes, Hamilton’s team, shared a post in support of its driver, too. “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.”
Hamilton, a seven-time F1 champion, has been a vocal proponent of the Black Lives Matter movement, as well as an outspoken critic of police brutality and systemic racism. In a 2020 GQ interview, he spoke candidly about how the deaths of George Floyd and Breonna Taylor moved him, and how he wants to be an advocate both within the racing world and society at large.
“…My purpose here is to utilise my voice to help encourage change. And my goal, really, is to shift the sport in a direction that it perhaps wouldn’t have gone if I wasn’t here,” he said. “And most certainly not have gone if the Black Lives Matter movement hadn’t started, if George’s life wasn’t so visible.”
The only Black driver in all of F1, Hamilton told Sky Italia last September that the sport needed to continue to push to be more inclusive. “We need to keep this discussion alive. It could be said that last year it was ‘trendy’ to talk about diversity, but you have to follow the words with the actions. We must continue to talk about it.”
The 2022 British Grand Prix takes place soon on July 3, so Piquet’s comments will likely hang over the proceedings as Hamilton and Verstappen compete on the track again.