Lewis Hamilton has finally addressed the controversial, year-old comments made by former Grand Prix champion Nelson Piquet.
In an interview in July 2021, the Brazilian called Hamilton the N-word while discussing his crash with Max Verstappen at last year's British Grand Prix. His comments recently resurfaced and caused public outrage, resulting in condemnation from the F1 community and Piquet being banned from the VIP area at future racing events.
During a drivers’ press conference ahead of this year's Silverstone Grand Prix, Hamilton thanked the sporting community for their support and said the incident with Piquet points to a bigger problem.
“Well, firstly I’m incredibly grateful to all those that have been supportive within the sport, particularly the drivers,” the Mercedes racer told reporters.
“You know, it’s been two years since many of us took the knee at the first race in Austria and of course we’re still faced with the challenges.”
Hamilton added that he’s been on the receiving end of “racism and criticism and negativity and archaic narratives for a long, long time”, and that’s why the 69-year-old’s comments didn’t take him by surprise.
“I think it’s more about the bigger picture. It’s not just about one individual, it’s not just about one use of that term – it’s the bigger picture.”
Last year’s British Grand Prix made headlines for all the wrong reasons.
Hamilton’s title rival, Verstappen, hit the barriers after colliding with the Englishman in the opening lap, which forced the race to be stopped.
Hamilton, who went on to win the race, received a 10-second penalty for his role in the accident while Verstappen was rushed to hospital to undergo medical checks.
Piquet, whose daughter, Kelly, is in a relationship with Verstappen, was commenting on the controversial race when he used the racial slur.
He’s now apologised to Hamilton, calling his comments “ill-thought-out” but adding that he never intended to offend him.
The retired racer says the term is used colloquially in Brazilian Portuguese as a synonym for “guy” or “person”.
Verstappen has condemned Piquet’s words but insists his girlfriend’s father isn’t a racist.
“Everyone is against racism. I think it’s very straight,” the world champion says.
“I think the wording that was used, even though of course we have different kind of cultures and [they were] things that were said when they were younger, is not correct.”
The Dutch racer added that instead of banning Piquet, F1 should have used the incident to create dialogue.
“I’ve spent a bit of time with Nelson and he’s definitely not a racist and he’s actually a really nice and relaxed guy.”
But Hamilton is uncompromising in his stance.
“I don’t really know why we are continuing to give these older voices a platform,” he says.
“Because they’re speaking upon our sport and we’re looking to go somewhere completely different and it’s not representative of who we are as a sport now and where we’re planning to go.
“We’re looking to grow in the US and other countries – South Africa – and we need to be looking to the future and giving the younger people a platform that are more representative of today’s time and who we are trying to be, in the direction that we’re going.”