Piquet gets F1 paddock ban after apologising to Hamilton but denying use of racial slur

2022 F1 season

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Three-times Formula 1 world champion Nelson Piquet has been banned indefinitely from appearing in the series’ paddock, RaceFans understands from a source, in the wake of comments he made about Lewis Hamilton.

The 1981, 1983 and 1987 world champion apologised to Hamilton for the comment which was made late last year but widely circulated on social media in recent days. However Piquet denied he intended any racial connotations in his remark and claimed his comments were mistranslated in some media coverage.

“I would like to clear up the stories circulating in the media about a comment I made in an interview last year,” said the 69-year old in a statement.

“What I said was ill thought out, and I make no defence for it, but I will clarify that the term used is one that has widely and historically been used colloquially in Brazilian Portuguese as a synonym for ‘guy’ or ‘person’ and was never intended to offend. I would never use the word I have been accused of in some translations. I strongly condemn any suggestion that the word was used by me with the aim of belittling a driver because of his skin colour.

Piquet claims his comments were mistranslated
“I apologise wholeheartedly to anyone that was affected, including Lewis, who is an incredible driver, but the translation in some media that is now circulating on social media is not correct.

“Discrimination has no place in F1 or society and I am happy to clarify my thoughts in that respect.”

Piquet’s comments were widely interpreted as being racist and were criticised by F1 and the FIA as well as several teams and drivers including Hamilton.

His apology appears to have fallen short of what F1 wanted to hear from the former Williams, Brabham and Benetton driver. As a result RaceFans understands Piquet will no longer be permitted in the F1 paddock.

“Discriminatory or racist language is unacceptable in any form and has no part in society,” said F1 in response to an enquiry from RaceFans yesterday. “Lewis is an incredible ambassador for our sport and deserves respect. [Hamilton’s] tireless efforts to increase diversity and inclusion are a lesson to many and something we are committed to at F1.”

The British Racing Drivers’ Club subsequently announced it has suspended Piquet’s honorary membership of the organisation.

“The BRDC Board of Directors has noted that, in a Brazilian podcast last November, Nelson Piquet Senior, an Honorary Member of the BRDC, described Lewis Hamilton using a racially offensive expression in Portuguese,” it said in a statement. “The apology issued yesterday by Mr Piquet Snr has also been noted.

“In view of the BRDC’s zero-tolerance policy towards any act involving or suggesting racism, the BRDC Board has concluded that Mr Piquet Snr’s use of racially offensive language to describe a fellow BRDC member (and seven-times world champion) is unacceptable and represents conduct that is wholly inappropriate for an Honorary Member of the BRDC, notwithstanding his subsequent apology.

“Accordingly, we have advised Mr Piquet Snr that his membership has been suspended with immediate effect. Following the Club’s due process, it is anticipated that the Board will terminate Mr Piquet Snr’s membership at a board meeting to be held after the required seven-day notice period.”

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Author information

Keith Collantine
Lifelong motor sport fan Keith set up RaceFans in 2005 - when it was originally called F1 Fanatic. Having previously worked as a motoring...
Claire Cottingham
Claire has worked in motorsport for much of her career, covering a broad mix of championships including Formula One, Formula E, the BTCC, British...

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109 comments on “Piquet gets F1 paddock ban after apologising to Hamilton but denying use of racial slur”

  1. So I give up, what did he actually say?

    1. Haha, my thoughts exactly. What a non article

    2. Bruno Verrari
      29th June 2022, 14:41

      That interview was also given last yesr – 7-8 months ago!

    3. It’s a Portuguese slang word from Brazil.
      And like most slang words it is very difficult to understand/assess if translated into other languages/settings.

      I’ve lived both in Brazil and the US, and there is a huge difference between the word Piquet used and the N-word used by a non-black person (interestingly, the word Piquet used in Portuguese comes closer ‘situationally’ to the N-word used by a black person about another black person).

      But having said that, its origins are highly racially motivated and few people use it in Brazil, and certainly somebody in the public arena should know better than to use it (in any setting).

      1. It’s definitely not a racial slur unless you construct racial context around it. The word he used was neguinho and it basically means mate, bloke, chap, dude, fam, or some informal way to address someone. I would definitely call out that it’s actualy commonly used. Maybe they didn’t use it around you as a foreigner trying to be more formal. But it’s absolutely a common expression.

        I’ve astonished by what western media have done with this story. Almost no media outlet bothered to actually research the full context. They just jumped on the bandwagon to say it was the n-word or a similar slur, because they are, understandably, wary of being caught on the wrong side of the issue.

        But it’s, ironically, profoundly ethnocentrist, for Brits (or anyone else for that matter) to take a word in portuguese and decide for Brazilians what it should mean, and be offended when it’s used. Brazilians and Brazilians alone get to determine how their language is regulated. I feel this situation has been taken to the extreme by well-intentioned people, whoc think they are fighting an actual racist person who used the n-word. But that’s not what happened here

        1. @ajpennypacker

          This isn’t true. I checked with multiple Brazilians, the word is not the most awful racial slur but is 100% racialised (it translates as “little black,” not ‘guy’) and in this context, where it was being used deorgatorily, is absolutely a slur. Subsequently confirmed by one of the Piquets themselves, in a truly awful defence that apparently the whole family uses it.

          It is absolutely embarrassing to see people pretending that this is anything other than a racist incident from a man with a long history of saying bigoted things.

          1. Allan Goodall
            29th June 2022, 17:25

            That’s what I’ve heard as well. I read several Brazilians commenting elsewhere that while Piquet’s “clarification” is maybe technically true, the context in which he used the term is most definitely a racial slur.

          2. Adding to my last reply, there’s huge differences in cultures and it’s hard to translate some things. The most common example is that +90% of brazilians laugh in internet using “kkkk” and not “hahahah”. But “kkk” is a very racist term in USA. I saw brazilians being acused as racists in internet by using it and they didn’t have any idea why that was happening. It’s very common for brazilians to get banned in online games for using it also, most people doesn’t know what it means in english.

          3. @Miane “kkk” is not a racist term in the US. The KKK (Ku Klux Klan) is a racist organization. That’s like saying “Nazi” is a racist term. I guess I can kind of see people being banned from games due to moderators just not wanting to deal with any potential discussion of such a subject, but there’s just no comparison to racial slurs.

          4. Brazilian here. While I don’t like Piquet, I don’t think he was being racist in those remarks.

            The word he used is literally “little black”, but it has several meanings including “guy” or “random dude”. Just to set an example, this is the word my father used to call people when he wanted to be friendly to them. So it really depends on the context.

            Dictionary References (in portuguese)

          5. @hazelsouthwell
            ” I checked with multiple Brazilians, the word is not the most awful racial slur but is 100% racialised (it translates as “little black,”..)”
            There’s nothing racist about calling someone “little black”, nor is there anything racist about racialized terms. You keep using the sick, pathological American culture and social norms as the plain for reference, which is simply wrong.
            In healthy societies, calling a black person black is like calling a tall person tall. Duh.

          6. What’s embarrassing is for people like you, who don’t speak the language, hasn’t experienced Brazilians culture, to have the nerve to try and tell Brazilians how to interpret their own damn language. As I said, it’s disgustingly ethnocentrist, a legacy of colonialism.

          7. I love @amian below who thinks there’s nothing wrong with calling someone a “little black”.

            I couldn’t care less about racists and think society is way too sensitive (i.e. the Michael Vaughan incident is nonsense) but these threads where people are defending Piquet are an absolute hoot.

          8. Hazel, Other sites are reporting that F1 is planning to ban Nelson from the paddock but you are reporting that it is a done deal. Where does your information come from and what exactly is the truth of this matter?
            Please clarify so that we can understand what is going on here.
            Thank you.

          9. @amian

            So in an interview, someone calls every driver by name except one, which happens to be black. That person happens to call that driver “little black”. But that’s not racist. Some mental gymnastics going on there…

          10. Well said Hazel.

            It’s the disrespectful way that Piquet talks about people, that’s the problem here.

          11. I don’t get it, why were my comments rejected? I perceive other comments here to be much more belligerent/aggressive than mine, which were basically sharing personal experience from my 23 years in Brazil. I work with translations and have dealt with racism on both sides of the court, so I thought I could add to the conversation, but apparently you don’t care for my input?

      2. I’ve just watched the video. It is even more of a non thing than I thought. He said it twice. Very informal brazillians can be, not the type of thing you say to anyone or live but I think the journos betrayed trust here, this language is normal to them, no emphasis just as if he had said “cara”, very natural. Bad choice of words and he was framed.

        1. LOL!! Describing one of the legends of his sport, during a rant where he’s moaning about him a “little black” is a “non thing”.

          Look I’m totally race insensitive – I don’t even believe in BLM, but please when you’re in a hole stop digging

  2. Now it hit the media big time, so here it comes.
    Who will be satisfied by it though, I wonder?

    1. WHo can really S? It is not sincere, it doesn’t actually excuse his behaviour and I am convinced he is not really behind it, nor happy to have to put out this statement to make sure he is not barred from the paddock and TV spotlights either.

      But it will be enough to make sure that F1 and the FIA etc will be able to dodge any discussion with “but he made an apology” and move on.

      1. Precisely. This comes across as “I’m sorry you were offended, but I didn’t do anything offensive so you are just misunderstanding me and it’s all your fault”. It isn’t a real apology.

        1. exactly

        2. Hamilton deserves no apology for being a spoiled, arrogant, primadonna. He doesn’t speak Portuguese and this all should stop at that.

          1. I do not think understanding Portuguese has anything to do with Nelson’s comment – he referred to all other drivers by name but chose to specifically use a term for Lewis. Lewis does not become a lesser human because of Nelson’s comment – the whole incident only shows Nelson’s lack of class. Of course, your comment also expresses your own standards of acceptable decorum.

            Now I understand if your standards of respect and etiquette are somewhat lower but you should not drag others lower with you.

        3. Bruno Verrari
          30th June 2022, 0:00

          Well, he’s honest.
          Should he exagerate and lie?!

      2. @bascb you don’t get it, you can’t get it. You must realise that Pelé is a superstar in Brazil 25 years before a black man played for England.

        1. @peartree, why would i care about the timing of the first black player for the English football team?

          And the fact that Pelé is incredibly important/well known in Brazil doesn’t mean in any way would mean anything different with what he said.

          1. @bascb it means that brazil’s sensitivities are not the same as UK’s. You can’t apply the same shock.

          2. What makes you believe I would be tempted to apply UK sensitivities here or anywhere (outside of looking at UK situations)? I could just as well apply, say German sensitivities, or maybe French? That doesn’t make sense.

            Apart from the fact that it was towards a UK citizen (Hamilton) maybe? But I would leave it to Lewis himself to judge.

            BTW, as MJBSTL mentions, the thing about Pele being important and recognized in Brazil is as relevant to Piquet being racist (or not) as saying that the USA having had Obama for president would somehow mean that Trump wasn’t a racist.

        2. You sound like the people who said America was a “post racial society” because Barack Obama became President. How’d that turn out??

          1. Race attitudes in the USA have stayed largely the same this decade. There is an extremist element that will never change, because it’s passed from parent to child.

            Those who described the USA as a “post racial society”, just because they had a black president, are as naive as Piquet who thinks talking publicly about people in a derogatory manner is fine.

      3. There are two possibilities for not apologizing. One is thinking that you did nothing wrong. The other is thinking that the person offended or wronged is unworthy of an apology: you should be free to insult and abuse them all you like.

        1. They are the same thing, @david-br.

        2. I disagree but if so, then you’re confirming that you think Piquet doesn’t think Hamilton worthy of an apology because he’s beneath him (Piquet) as a human being, right? I suspect that’s so too. Hence the racist slur. But what to conclude from your agreement and then the comment that ‘that’s what society is like now’? I’m correct to assume you’re placing the blame on ‘society’ for demanding an apology rather than Piquet for being racist?

        3. petebaldwin (@)
          29th June 2022, 15:26

          No they’re not.

          One is like bumping into someone when you’re walking down the street (when actually, they walked into you) and then not offering an apology because in your opinion, you’re not at fault.

          The other is like shoulder barging someone out of the way and then laughing at them as you walk away.

        4. What I think doesn’t matter – but if I did have to take a guess, I’d say Piquet probably doesn’t think Hamilton requires a real apology because, to Piquet, he hasn’t been wronged (as in, Piquet didn’t say anything to apologise for, by his own standards).
          Which is pretty much exactly what he says in his own words anyway.

          I’m correct to assume you’re placing the blame on ‘society’ for demanding an apology rather than Piquet for being racist?

          I see this as two separate things….
          The first part, yes. Demanding an apology is bound to be answered with a fake non-apology. If he’d really wanted to apologise because he felt remorse and guilt, he’d have done so of his own free will at some point over the previous 7 months – probably during the interview or very soon after – wouldn’t he…

          For the second part – we can debate whether what he said was said with derogatory racist intention or not if you want, but we wouldn’t achieve anything. Only the person making any comment knows exactly what they want to say.
          I can imagine that to him, it’s not strictly racist in a demeaning sense – even though it is to other people. Just as the (sometimes equivalent) English ‘N’ word isn’t always used in a demeaning manner either, but can certainly be offensive in certain contexts.
          I mean, it’s not unheard of to describe someone using other physical features as a shortcut either. The bald guy, the blonde girl, the large bloke, the Asian woman…
          I don’t think any of these are strictly a demeaning slur, though they could potentially be used that way. Just as the the colour of a person’s skin can be – or not.

          Tomato, Tomato… Potato, potato… Let’s call the whole thing… Racism?
          I think there’s more to it than just blatant repressive racism.

        5. Either way, @petebaldwin, the apology is going to be insincere, isn’t it?
          We were talking about the apology, weren’t we?

      4. He clarified what he meant or didn’t mean. We can give him that.
        I am Brazilian and I really don’t like Piquet, but the word he used cannot be even closely compared to the N-word. It was stupid to use the word in that context, but his statement that it had no racial connotation in the context actually is acceptable. Therefore, apologizing for offense taken is in order in this case.
        Just my 5 cents.

    2. We could leave it to Hamilton to decide if he accepts the apology, he is a better judge of this than many of us I suspect..

    3. Definitely not me.

    4. Apology with “but” is not a real apology, and Piquet used it twice.

      1. He did not meant to insult Lewis, apologized if it felt that way, but he did not used racist language as such so nothing to apology for. ( something like this..)

  3. Right. Another one of those. An attempt at an excuse that is immediately followed by a but …

    Sure, Nelsinho you said enough to be able to avoid being kicked out of the airwaves or future paddocks. It was not a real excuse, and certainly not “wholeheartily”.

    The fact that we need to act as a sport, as fans and as society to move actually make changes remains.

    1. Interesting, Andrew Benson mentions got told by F1 that Nelson won’t be allowed back into the paddock. Not sure that was before his lame attempt at saying he did not say it or after it though.

      I would be somewhat impressed if they actually stood by their decision in this case.

      1. I can only hope.

  4. So he’s taken a leaf from Verstappen’s book. Say whatever bile you want and when called out for it wash your hands and blame your culture.

  5. I don’t think anyone buys his nonsense apology (if you can even call it that).

    1. true and by mistake i pressed the report comment, my bad

  6. the term he used isn’t equivalent to the western “n” word, but is still derogatory and racist, and Nelson Piquet should have apologized whole heartedly and not apologized with the fake apology excuse after it “But…..” Piquet is friends with the nut case alt-right Brazillian president that denied covid and is to blame for the death of hundreds of thousands of Brazillians. He was a great racer, but these older generation right wingers don’t change, as witnessed by his lame attempt at an apology. In an apology you do not turn it back to yourself and defend yourself, you apologize.

    1. Renan Andrade Martinuzzo
      29th June 2022, 14:58

      This post gives a good understanding of what it is happening.

      The word Piquet used is indeed colloquial for ‘guy’ in some circustances and, as a brazilian, I saw that the potential for damage once translated was much higher.

      Yet, the world itself is falling out of practice in Brazil as it is still derogatory.

  7. Electroball76
    29th June 2022, 14:16

    It’s only banter! quoth this guy

  8. Amazed he didn’t have PR guy tell him having the phrase “I make no defence for it, but…” in your apology makes the whole thing comes across very insincere

  9. A half apology but containing an untruth. The non-racialized synonym of ‘guy’ or ‘bloke’ is cara, camarada, rapaz, or to be less friendly, sujeito. N-inho isn’t used for just anyone and was clearly used by Piquet in specific reference to Hamilton’s colour and in a negative context (berating him for the Silverstone collision last year). If people want to know who’s right about this, rather than listening to white journalists and fans, they need to hear from members of black communities and movements in Brazil.

    1. Incidentally plenty of Brazilians recognized the racial slur instantly and apologised to Hamilton, including writer Paulo Coelho, who wrote: “Dear @ LewisHamilton : Piquet is currently the driver of the worst president in our history. His racist remarks shows the desperate need to return to the spotlight I apologize in the name of the Brazilian people, who respect and love you…”

    2. @david-br you are right but david, you must agree that it is in no way as bad as the n word is for the english media. Don’t put politics into it, Bopsona

      1. Bolsonaro is a clown and the motorsport journalists are die hard Hamilton fans. None of this should matter.

      2. @peartree There are no set rules for how offensive either word is (English or Portuguese). It’s true that, say, older couples – even two white people – may refer to each other using M-terms with rule affection. It’s also true that they can be used as racial profiling and with the intention of inferiorizing the person being labelled. Brazil has plenty of racism, as much as the US or UK, it’s just structured and manifested differently. To understand this, you need to go back to late 19th century and early 20th century government policies after abolition. When the black workforce was freed, the Brazilian governments launched campaigns to attract European (and even Japanese) workers, many from Germany and Italy, and had an explicit eugenicist ideology of branqueamento, gradually turning Brazil’s population whiter. So while racial mixture was recognised, it was always polarized with the ‘goal’ of becoming as white as possible. This helps explain a lot why terms can be used openly and apparently in a friendly way but nonetheless mask a deeper racist bias.

        1. * sorry, ‘N-terms with real affection.’
          Incidentally, it’s Piquet who politicized himself through open support of Bolsonaro that directly reflects his Formula 1 career (driving him around).