Former Brazilian Formula One driver Nelson Piquet apologized on Wednesday (29) to seven-time champion Lewis Hamilton after calling him a “neguinho” in an interview, but denied a racist connotation.
“I heartily apologize to everyone who was affected, including Lewis, who is an amazing driver. But the translation circulating in some vehicles and on social media is not correct,” the 69-year-old Brazilian said in a statement.
In an interview from November 2021, but which resurfaced on the Internet on Tuesday, the three-time world champion (1981, 1983, 1987) used the word “neguinho” to refer to Hamilton in an accident involving the Briton and Dutchman Max Verstappen at the 2021 British Grand Prix.
“The ‘neguinho’ (Hamilton) left the car because there was no way to pass two cars on that corner. He did it as a joke. His luck was that only the other one (Verstappen) got fucked up. He did a dirty trick,” Piquet said in the interview with Motorsports.com.
On Wednesday, Piquet defended himself and said that what he said “was poorly thought out, and I’m not going to defend myself from that, but I want to clarify that the term is widely and historically used colloquially in the Portuguese language as a synonym for ‘person’ or ‘guy,’ and was not used with the intention of offending.
“I would never use the term of which I have been accused of using in some translations. I strongly condemn any suggestion that I would have used that word with the aim of diminishing a driver because of the color of his skin,” the former driver added.
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The day before, Hamilton reacted, “It’s more than language. These archaic mentalities need to change and have no room in our sport.” Nelson Piquet’s statements were condemned by the International Automobile Federation (FIA) and Formula 1, which organizes the F1 World Championship, by teams and other drivers.
Piquet, who is the father of Verstappen’s girlfriend, is a supporter of far-right president Jair Bolsonaro.