PARIS (AP) – Formula 1 great Lewis Hamilton said the “archaic mindset” needs to change after retired champion Nelson Piquet reportedly used racist remarks against him.
Hamilton’s comments came after F1 and FIA condemned racist language.
“It is more than language. These archaic mindsets need to change and have no place in our sport. I have been surrounded by these attitudes and have been targeted all my life,” Hamilton tweeted on Tuesday. “There is plenty of time to learn. It is time to act.”
The only black driver in F1 is Hamilton seven-time world champion.
He also wrote in Portuguese: “Vamos focar em mudar a mentalidade” (Let’s focus on changing the mindset), responding to another tweet that used an expletive about Piquet, a 69-year-old Brazilian who has played three F1 won titles.
Piquet discussed a crash between Hamilton and Max Verstappen at last year’s British Grand Prix when Piquet used the word “neguinho” — meaning “little black man” — on a YouTube podcast called Enerto in November.
The word isn’t necessarily a racist slur in Brazil, but it’s an expression that is increasingly seen as distasteful, and its wording can emphasize that too.
Piquet’s comment did not go viral at the time, but suddenly it did on Monday, although it is unclear why it took so long after the interview.
Piquet is a staunch supporter of Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro, the far-right politician who wants to be re-elected in 100 days. Piquet previously drove Bolsonaro around Brasilia, which went viral.
“Discriminating or racist language in any form is unacceptable 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 something we are committed to in F1.”
Motorsport governing body FIA also defended Hamilton.
“The FIA strongly condemns all racist or discriminatory language and behaviour, which have no place in sport or the wider society,” the FIA said. “We express our solidarity with @Lewis Hamilton and fully support his commitment to equality, diversity and inclusion in motorsport.”
Hamilton’s Mercedes team – known as the Silver Arrows – switched from silver to an all-black car in 2020 to support Hamilton’s Efforts to Combat Racism† Hamilton and most drivers knelt before races in 2020 and 2021 as an anti-racism gesture. Hamilton has also set up The Hamilton Commission to improve F1’s diversity.
“We condemn in the strongest terms any use of racist or discriminatory language of any kind. Lewis has been at the forefront of our sport’s efforts to fight 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 strive for a better future.”
Two years ago, Hamilton criticized “ignorant and uneducated” comments by former F1 boss Bernie Ecclestone† 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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