The Brazilian court sentenced the three-time Formula 1 champion Nelson Piquet to pay close to a million dollars in compensation for racist comments against the British Lewis Hamilton, seven times monarch in the same category.
The statements of the former Brazilian runner were considered “intolerable” and a “serious offense to the fundamental values of society” by a court of first instance in the Federal District. For this reason, he ordered Piquet to pay five million reais (945 million dollars at current exchange rates) for “collective moral damages.” As published by the afp agency, the money will go to funds for the promotion of racial equality and against discrimination of LGBTIQ+ people.
In a 2021 interview with the website Motorsports.com, Piquet used the word “negrito” (“neguinho” in Brazilian Portuguese) to talk about Hamilton about an accident that also involved Dutchman Max Verstappen on the first lap of the Grand Prix of Great Britain in 2021.
“The black guy (Lewis Hamilton) put the car in and left it because he couldn’t pass two cars in that corner. He played dirty. His luck was that only the other (Verstappen) got screwed,” said the three-time world champion in 1981, 1983 and 1987. When the interview went viral in June 2022, Piquet’s statements were condemned in the world of F1, by the International Automobile Federation (FIA), by Formula 1, organizer of the World Championship, and by teams and other pilots.
Hamilton, who in addition to being one of the most visible faces of the “Black Lives Matter” movement among athletes uses a rainbow-colored helmet in F1 2023 to show his support for LGBTQ+ people, denounced these “archaic attitudes” they must “change” since “they are more than words”.
Piquet, 70, apologized “from the bottom of my heart” to Hamilton for his words. “What I said was wrong and I will not defend myself, but I want to specify that the term used is a term that has long and historically been used in the Brazilian Portuguese language as ‘type’ or ‘person’ and has never been intended to offend” , assured the expilot, Formula 1 champion in 1981 ahead of the Argentine Carlos Alberto Reutemann. However, Piquet’s argument was not enough for the court, which ruled that “the lack of intent (…) is no longer relevant to justify or remove responsibility for discriminatory behaviors against minorities.”
Piquet has a particular relationship with Verstappen, since his daughter Kelly is the girlfriend of the current two-time Formula 1 champion. Furthermore, it is not the first time that his statements have caused him inconvenience. An ardent supporter of the far-right former Brazilian president Jair Bolsonaro, in November 2022, the Brazilian federal public ministry opened an investigation into the conduct of the former Formula 1 world champion, who was recorded in a video calling for the death of President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva.