Nelson Piquet hit with hefty fine over racist, homophobic slurs against Lewis Hamilton
Three-time Formula 1 World Champion, Nelson Piquet, has been fined 5,000,000 Brazilian Reals (£780,000) in ‘moral damages’ over racist and homophobic comments he made about Lewis Hamilton.
A court in Brazil ruled in Piquet’s case on Friday after the former Williams driver was sued for the comments he made about Hamilton in a previous interview in November 2021 when discussing his crash at Silverstone with Max Verstappen during their tense title fight, which included a racial slur.
A separate interview then surfaced in which Piquet was heard using racist and homophobic language against Hamilton when discussing him losing out on the 2016 title to Mercedes team-mate Nico Rosberg, and a court case was then brought by four human rights groups against the three-time World Champion, including Brazil’s LGBTQ+ Alliance.
The court filing had sought a fine of up to 10m (£1.56m) Reals, though a significant financial penalty has still been given to Piquet, who apologised soon after the comments were brought to light.
When news of Piquet’s comments first emerged last year, Hamilton responded by posting on social media: “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.”
In passing down the judgement on Friday, Judge Pedro Matos de Arrudo said, as quoted by Reuters, that the amount of compensation was given “in the sense that one should not only appreciate the reparative function of civil liability but also (and perhaps mainly) the punitive function so that, as a society, we can someday be free from the pernicious acts that are racism and homophobia.”
Piquet’s paddock access in Formula 1 was suspended indefinitely after the news of his comments came to light, though he did issue a statement clarifying and apologising for his words when they were brought to wider attention.
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“What I said was ill thought out, and I make no defence for it,” Piquet said last year.
“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.”