PARIS (AP) — Formula One great Lewis Hamilton says the “archaic mentality” has to change after retired champion Nelson Piquet allegedly used a racial slur against him.
Hamilton’s comments came after F1 and the FIA condemned the racist language.
“It is more than a language. These archaic mentalities must change and have no place in our sport. I have been surrounded by these attitudes and have been in the crosshairs all my life,” Hamilton tweeted on Tuesday. “There has been a lot of time to learn. The time for action has come.”
The only black driver in F1, Hamilton is a seven-time world champion.
He also wrote in Portuguese, “Vamos focar em mudar a mentalidade” (Let’s focus on changing the mentality), and responded to another tweet that used an expletive about Piquet, a 69-year-old Brazilian who won three F1 titles.
Piquet was talking about an accident between Hamilton and Max Verstappen during last year’s British Grand Prix. when Piquet used the word “neguinho,” which means “little black man,” in November on a YouTube podcast called Enerto.
The word is not necessarily a racist slur in Brazil, but it is an expression that has been increasingly seen as distasteful, and his phrasing may also emphasize that.
Piquet’s comment didn’t go viral at the time, but it suddenly did on Monday, though it’s unclear why it took so long after the interview.
Piquet is a staunch supporter of Brazil’s President Jair Bolsonaro, the far-right politician who is running for re-election in 100 days. Piquet previously drove Bolsonaro around Brasilia, which went viral.
“Discriminatory or racist language is unacceptable in any form and is not part of society. Lewis is an incredible ambassador for our sport and he 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.”
Hamilton has campaigned tirelessly to fight racism and has spoken out about human rights abuses in countries where F1 races.
Motorsport’s governing body, the FIA, also defended Hamilton.
“The FIA strongly condemns any racist or discriminatory language and behaviour, which has no place in sport or in society at large,” the FIA said. “We express our solidarity with @LewisHamilton and fully support its 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 of the drivers took a knee before the 2020 and 2021 races as a gesture against racism. Hamilton also created the Hamilton Commission to improve diversity in F1.
“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 the track,” Mercedes said on Twitter. “Together, we share a vision of a diverse and inclusive motorsport, and this incident underscores the critical importance of continuing to fight for a better future.”
Two years ago, Hamilton criticized former F1 boss Bernie Ecclestone’s “ignorant and uneducated” comments.. Hamilton was surprised by Ecclestone’s claim during an interview with CNN that “in many cases, blacks are more racist” than whites.
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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