Another day, another example of racism in sports. Seven-time Formula One world champion Lewis Hamilton has ripped former Formula One champ Nelson Piquet for calling referring to him by a Portuguese racial slur in an interview last year.
According to CNN Brazil , Piquet referred to Hamilton as a “little neguinho” while speaking with Motorsports Talk about a crash involving Hamilton and rival Max Verstappen in last season’s British Grand Prix, adding, “The neguinho [Portuguese slur for ‘little black guy’] put the car in the wrong way on the corner, it’s because you don’t know the curve. It’s a very high curve, there is no way to pass two cars and there’s no way you can put the car aside. He did [Verstappen] dirty. His luck was that only the other one was gone.”
The resurfaced interview gained traction this week ahead of this week’s British Grand Prix and caused Hamilton to respond.
“It’s more than language. These archaic mindsets need to change and have no place in our sport,” Hamilton tweeted. “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.”
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
It’s also worth noting that Piquet is the father of Verstappen’s girlfriend, Kelly.
Hamilton’s Mercedes teammate George Russell released a statement in support of the seven-time world champion.
“Huge respect to LH. He has done more for the sport than any driver in history, not just on track but off it,” Russell tweeted. “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.”
Huge respect to LH. He has done more for the sport than any driver in history, not just on track but off it. 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. https://t.co/E4c1jFQKtf
— George Russell (@GeorgeRussell63) June 28, 2022
Mercedes and Formula 1 also issued statements.
— Mercedes-AMG PETRONAS F1 Team (@MercedesAMGF1) June 28, 2022
— Formula 1 (@F1) June 28, 2022
These statements are kind of like “thoughts and prayers” after a tragedy. Nice, but what is being done to actually address these issues?
Of course there are no easy solutions to a problem that has been infecting humanity since its inception. However many entities take hardline stances.
If it were a current driver, docking points in the standings and a monetary punishment would certainly send a message. For a former driver like Piquet, perhaps he’s banned from current F1 activities, promotions, etc? Or plans to honor his legacy are cancelled.
Again, there is no easy answer. But something more than issuing statements needs to be done. Particularly as Hamilton has been on the frontlines working to change the racial make up of F1 to include more minorities and underrepresented groups.
“It’s been generally quite a lonely journey. It’s just been my and my family, we’re the only Black family [in F1],” Hamilton said in May. “I’ve been racing 29 years, I’m 37 now. I’ve been a professional for 16 years, but most often I’m the only person of color in the room.”
He created the “Hamilton Commission”, which seeks to address the underrepresentation of Black people in U.K. motorsport. He also began “Mission44” with a goal to “support, champion and empower young people from underrepresented groups in the UK to succeed.”
As Hamilton stated in his tweet on Tuesday, there has been “plenty of time to learn.” In 2022 anyone that is using racially abusive or offensive language doesn’t need to be educated. They are fully aware of the language used. It’s time for some level of punitive action and its time for the sport to start reflecting a more diverse population.