Former Formula One champion fined for racist and homophobic Lewis Hamilton comments

Nelson Piquet

Former Formula One champion Nelson Piquet has been hit with a hefty fine for making racist and homophobic comments about British racing driver – and seven-time world champion – Lewis Hamilton.

On Friday (24 March), a Brazilian court ruled that Piquet, aged 70, must pay £780,000 in compensation (five million Brazilian reals) after the offensive comments made during an interview in November 2021 surfaced in June 2022.

Piquet was discussing the collision between Hamilton and Max Verstappen in the 2021 British Grand Prix on a Brazilian podcast when he used a homophobic slur and a racist term. Nelson Piquet is the father of Verstappen’s partner, Kelly Piquet. 

Referring to Hamilton, he said in Portugese: “The [racist term] must have been giving a lot of a** at the time. He was pretty bad.”

Piquet also accused Hamilton of purposefully causing the crash, saying Hamilton “put his car there to hit him on purpose” and “he wanted to take him [Verstappen] out no matter the cost”.

After his comments came to light last year, Piquet was banned from the F1 paddock and the British Racing Drivers’ Club ended his honorary membership. 

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Four human rights groups – including the National LGBT+ Alliance of Brazil – brought charges to court, seeking 10 million Brazilian reals for alleged moral damages. On Friday, Judge Pedro Matos de Arrudo ruled in their favour.

The court ruling stated: “The Substitute Judge of the 20th Civil Court of Brasilia sentenced former Formula 1 driver Nelson Piquet Souto Maior to pay R$ 5 million in compensation for collective moral damages, to be allocated to funds for the promotion of racial equality and discrimination against the LGBTQIA+ community, due to the offenses made against current Formula 1 driver Lewis Hamilton.”

Judge Matos de Arrudo said the amount of compensation was in service of creating a society that can “someday be free from the pernicious acts that are racism and homophobia”.

Sky News reported that Piquet “wholeheartedly” apologised to Hamilton, but said the term he used was mistranslated and “strongly condemned” the suggestion that his words were racist.

However, a Brazilian court did not agree, and ruled that Nelson Piquet must pay a substantial £780,000 in compensation.

Lewis Hamilton responded to Piquet’s comments by slamming “archaic mindsets” and calling for action.

He tweeted: “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.”

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