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Lewis Hamilton and F1 condemn Nelson Piquet over 'racist language'

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By AP  with Euronews
Nelson Piquet (L) had been speaking about Lewis Hamilton (R) on a podcast in November.
Nelson Piquet (L) had been speaking about Lewis Hamilton (R) on a podcast in November.   -   Copyright  Janos Marjai/MTI via AP -- AP Photo/Daniel Cole

Formula One officials have condemned former world champion Nelson Piquet after he used a racial slur against current driver Lewis Hamilton.

Piquet had referenced the colour of Hamilton’s skin with a discriminatory term while speaking on a podcast in November. A video of the interview emerged online on Tuesday.

On Wednesday, the Brazilian issued a statement in which he apologised "wholeheartedly to everyone who was affected, including Lewis."

But he also said he wanted to "clarify" media reports and said he "would never use the word I have been accused of in some translations".

"I strongly condemn any suggestion that I used the word in order to demean a driver because of his skin colour," Piquet added.

Hamilton -- a seven-time F1 champion -- had said on Twitter that the words were "more than language".

"These archaic mindsets need to change and have no place in our sport," he wrote.

"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."

Hamilton also tweeted in Portuguese, “Vamos focar em mudar a mentalidade” ("Let’s focus on changing the mindset").

His comments on Twitter came after both F1 and the Fédération Internationale de l'Automobile (FIA) had condemned "racist language".

“Discriminatory or racist language is unacceptable in any form and has no part in society," F1 said in a statement.

"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."

Motorsport's governing body also expressed "solidarity" with Hamilton on Twitter, adding that it "fully supports his commitment to equality, diversity and inclusion in motorsport."

Hamilton -- the only Black driver in F1 -- has campaigned against racism in motorsport and has been outspoken on human rights abuses.

Hamilton and most drivers took a knee before races in 2020 and 2021 as an anti-racism gesture.

The racially abusive comments by Piquet had been made on the 'Enerto' podcast on YouTube.

The former three-time Brazilian world champion had been referring to a crash between Hamilton and Max Verstappen during last year’s British Grand Prix. The collision resulted in Verstappen retiring from the race, while Hamilton went on to secure victory.

Speaking to Enerto, Piquet had labelled the incident a "joke" and said Hamilton had been "lucky" only Verstappen crashed.

The Dutch driver -- who controversially triumphed over Hamilton to win the 2021 F1 World Championship -- is currently dating Piquet's daughter, Kelly. Piquet was also known for controversial remarks during his racing career.

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.

“We condemn in the strongest terms any use of racist or discriminatory language of any kind," Mercedes said on Twitter.

"Lewis has spearheaded our sport’s efforts to combat racism, and he is a true champion of diversity on and off track. 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.”

Two years ago, Hamilton had criticised former F1 boss Bernie Ecclestone for making “ignorant and uneducated” comments about racial injustice.

Hamilton's Mercedes teammate and fellow British driver George Russell also said on Twitter that he has "huge respect" for his compatriot.

"[Hamilton] has done more for the sport than any driver in history, not just on [the] track but off it," said Russell.

"The fact that he and so many others are still having to deal with this behaviour is unacceptable. We all need to stand together against discrimination of any kind."