Lewis Hamilton has responded to racial abuse from former Formula 1 world champion Nelson Piquet by posting a series of powerful messages online.
The seven-time world champion is the most successful driver in the history of F1, but has fought against horrific racial abuse throughout his racing career from bigoted fans and senior figures in the sport.
Piquet used a word in Portuguese which translates into English as the vile ‘n-word’ racial slur, in an interview recorded last November but only released publicly on Brazilian television on Monday night.
The 69-year-old was discussing the incident between Hamilton and Red Bull driver Max Verstappen at last year’s British Grand Prix at Silverstone, where the pair duked for the lead into Copse corner and Verstappen crashed out into the barriers at high speed.
Hamilton was blamed for the incident by Piquet, whose daughter Kelly has been dating Verstappen for a number of years, before he launched into a vile tirade including disgraceful racist language.
Both Formula 1 and Hamilton’s Mercedes team condemned Piquet’s comments.
‘Discriminatory or racist language is unacceptable in any form and has no part in society,’ F1 said in a statement released on Tuesday.
‘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.’
Mercedes, meanwhile, backed up their driver in a statement of their own.
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,’ the team’s statement read.
‘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.’
For his part, Hamilton retorted with both humour and a powerfully salient statement on Twitter on Tuesday afternoon.
Responding to a fan whose original tweet read ‘What if Lewis Hamilton just tweeted ‘Who the f*** is Nelson Piquet?’ then closed twitter?’, Hamilton wrote: ‘Imagine.’
The 37-year-old then followed that up with a message in Portuguese reading ‘Let’s focus on changing the mindset,’ before posting a longer response in English.
‘It’s more than language,’ Hamilton wrote. ‘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.’
The racist nature of Piquet’s words have come as a shock to many Formula 1 fans, but the fact that an older, white former driver has lambasted Hamilton is no surprise, with former champions and racers frequently lining up to slam the Stevenage-born star on a regular basis.
Hamilton has increasingly campaigned on diversity issues in the past few years. He is a prominent supporter of the Black Lives Matter movement, and his Hamilton Commission has been set up to provide greater opportunity for young black people in STEM subjects.
The former McLaren driver is also working with his Mercedes team to increase the diversity of its workforce, which like the rest of the Formula 1 paddock, remains predominantly white, male, and heterosexual.
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