Nelson Piquet has apologised “wholeheartedly” after using an offensive expression when discussing Lewis Hamilton in an interview last year but insists the word he used has been mistranslated.
Former Formula One world champion Piquet, 69, was reported to have used a racial slur towards Hamilton following the 2021 British Grand Prix.
Piquet said in a statement: “I would like to clear up the stories circulating in the media about a comment I made in an interview last year.
“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.
“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.”
Brazilian Piquet, a three-time world champion, was reported to have been discussing a collision between Hamilton and rival Max Verstappen on the opening lap at Silverstone, which saw the Dutchman retire from the race.
Hamilton responded to the story on social media by insisting “archaic mindsets” needed to change and was supported by Formula One and his team Mercedes, who both condemned Piquet.
The PA news agency understands Piquet will not be welcomed back into the F1 paddock.
Seven-time world champion Hamilton posted on Twitter: “It’s more than language. 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.”
An F1 statement read: “Discriminatory or racist language is unacceptable in any form and has no part in society. 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 said in a statement that they condemned “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,” Mercedes said.
“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.”
Fellow Mercedes driver George Russell and Ferrari’s Charles Leclerc also gave Hamilton their full backing by posting messages of support on Twitter.