Nelson Piquet has been summoned to Federal court in Brazil over the racial slur he used against Lewis Hamilton in a podcast interview last year.
The comments surfaced last month and immediately received widespread condemnation from the entire paddock and the wider Formula 1 community, and the Brazilian may now face significant consequences.
A combined case has been brought against him by four human rights groups, who demand legal action under the allegation of causing moral damage to black and LGBTQ+ people, with further words emerging after the initial controversy that have seen Piquet accused of homophobia as well as racism.
Should Piquet be punished, a fine of up to 10m Brazilian reals [£1.56m] could be awarded.
Hamilton, who was recently awarded honorary citizenship of Brazil, posted on social media in response to the comments emerging: “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.”
Judge Felipe Costa da Fonseca Gomes of the Distrito Federal court will hear the arguments, with Piquet set to have 15 days to plead his case to the court.
The Associated Press approached Piquet for comment, but he did not provide one.
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.
— Lewis Hamilton (@LewisHamilton) June 28, 2022
Piquet himself denied his answer in the interview was racially motivated, and “wholeheartedly” apologised after the accusations came to light, though the three-time World Champion’s access to Formula 1 paddocks has reportedly been suspended indefinitely in the wake of the incident.
“What I said was ill thought out, and I make no defence for it,” Piquet said in a recent statement.
“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.”