Max Verstappen says Nelson Piquet is not a racist but acknowledges that the word he used to describe Lewis Hamilton in a 2021 interview was “not correct”.
Piquet has been banned from the Formula 1 paddock after using a racial slur during an interview last year in which he was speaking about Hamilton’s crash with Max Verstappen at the British Grand Prix.
The Brazilian told Motorsport Talk: “The [racial slur] put the car in and left it, because there was no way to get past two cars at that corner. He drove dirty.”
Piquet apologised, saying in a statement that “the term used is a term that has been widely and historically used colloquially in the Portuguese language in Brazil as a colloquial synonym of ‘guy’ or ‘nobody’, and that it was never intended to offend”.
Hamilton, though, was offended saying it is “not just about one individual. It’s not about just that one use of that term. It is the bigger picture.”
Piquet has not only been banned from the paddock, the BRDC also suspended his honorary membership status.
Verstappen, who is dating Piquet’s daughter Kelly, has denied that the 69-year-old is a racist.
“I’ve spent a bit of time with Nelson,” he said. “I think more than the average person in general, and he’s definitely not a racist.
“He’s actually a really nice and relaxed guy, and I’m pretty sure that also the statement he released, I think you can see the word in two ways.
“But I think it’s still better not to use it.”
He acknowledged that the word used was “not correct”.
“I think the wording that was used, even though of course with different kinds of cultures and things they said when they were little and younger, was not correct,” Verstappen added.
“Let it be a lesson for the future not to use that word, because it’s very offensive, and especially nowadays, it gains more traction.”
He added: “I’m not going to call him and go hey man, that’s not correct – I think he knows that himself.
“He already said in his statement, I think he realised he used the wrong word, so who am I to then call him? I don’t think it will change anything anyway.
“As he said, it can be interpreted in two ways, and of course people pick up on the bad side and it gets really blown out of proportion, because I know Nelson personally.
“People of course label him as a racist now, which I don’t think he is, but I fully agree that you cannot use those words.”
Asked whether he stood on the paddock ban, the Red Bull driver said: “When you ban people, you are actually not even helping the situation, you are not talking.
“You have to communicate. Communication is really important, because if you just ban, it’s not helping what you’re trying to enforce. You’re trying to educate people. So it’s better to have a chat.
“These things can be very easily solved. When you have a fight with someone and you insult someone and you have a good chat and you apologise, and these kinds of things, it’s exactly the same. It’s not nice, the one you upset, but things can be easily forgotten.
“As long as you learn from the mistake you made or the wording you used, I don’t think you should be banned from the paddock, especially a three-time world champion.”