PARIS (AP) — Formula One great Lewis Hamilton says “archaic mindsets” need to change after retired champion Nelson Piquet allegedly used a racial slur against him.
Hamilton’s comments came after F1 and the FIA condemned the racist language.
“It’s more than the language. These archaic mentalities must change and have no place in our sport. I’ve been surrounded by these attitudes and targeted my whole life,” Hamilton tweeted on Tuesday. “There was a lot of time to learn. The time has come to act.
The only black driver in F1, Hamilton is a seven-time world champion.
He also wrote in Portuguese, “Vamos focar em mudar a mentalidade” (Let’s focus on changing mentality), and replied to another tweet that used an expletive about Piquet, a 69-year-old Brazilian who won three F1 titles.
Piquet was discussing an accident between Hamilton and Max Verstappen at last year’s British Grand Prix when Piquet used the word “neguinho” – which means “little Black” – in November on a YouTube podcast named Enerto.
The word is not necessarily a racial slur in Brazil, but it is an expression that is increasingly seen as distasteful, and its phrasing can also emphasize this.
Piquet’s comment didn’t go viral at the time, but suddenly did on Monday, although it’s unclear why it was so long after the interview.
Piquet is a staunch supporter of Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro, the far-right politician seeking re-election in 100 days. Piquet previously drove Bolsonaro around Brasilia, which has gone viral.
“Discriminatory or racist language is unacceptable in any form and has no place in society. Lewis is an incredible ambassador for our sport and deserves respect,” F1 said in a statement. “His tireless efforts to increase diversity and inclusion are a lesson to many and we are committed to F1.”
Hamilton campaigned tirelessly to fight racism and has been outspoken about human rights abuses in countries where F1 races.
Motorsport’s governing body, the FIA, has also defended Hamilton.
“The FIA strongly condemns any racist or discriminatory language and behaviour, which has no place in sport or in society in general,” the FIA said. “We express our solidarity with @LewisHamilton and fully support its commitment to equality, diversity and inclusion in motorsport.
Hamilton’s Mercedes team – known as the Silver Arrows – went from silver to an all-black car in 2020 to support Hamilton’s anti-racism efforts. Hamilton and most of the drivers took a knee before the 2020 and 2021 races as a sign of the fight against racism. Hamilton also set up the Hamilton Commission to improve diversity in F1.
“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 the track,” Mercedes said on Twitter. “Together we share a vision for a diverse and inclusive motorsport, and this incident underscores the fundamental importance of continuing to fight for a better future.”
Two years ago Hamilton slammed former F1 boss Bernie Ecclestone’s ‘ignorant and uneducated’ comments. Hamilton was shocked by Ecclestone’s claim during an interview with broadcaster CNN that “in many cases black people are more racist” than white people.
Piquet won F1 three times in the 1980s and 23 races. His daughter Kelly Piquet is Verstappen’s girlfriend.
The British GP is this weekend.
Associated Press writer Mauricio Savarese in Sao Paulo contributed to this report.
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