Nelson Piquet, Brazil’s three-time Formula One champion, has been ordered to pay £780,000 in “moral damages” for using racist and homophobic language when referring to Lewis Hamilton, Mercedes’ driver. In a November 2021 interview, Piquet made a racist slur directed at Hamilton in the context of the British Grand Prix crash involving Max Verstappen. Piquet’s daughter, Kelly, is in a relationship with Verstappen, who is Hamilton’s rival. The former racer’s comments were considered equivalent to or similar to the N-word.
Another clip surfaced in which Piquet made further racist and homophobic remarks about Hamilton, this time during a podcast interview about the 2016 championship race with Nico Rosberg. After the interview, Hamilton called for an end to “archaic mindsets,” and Piquet apologized, stating that his comments had been mistranslated.
However, a Brazilian court has ruled that Piquet must pay the sum, and he has been banned from the F1 paddock. The compensation awarded serves not only a reparative function but also a punitive one, as a means of preventing pernicious acts like racism and homophobia in society. The charges were brought by four human rights groups, including Brazil’s National LGBT+ Alliance.
Formula 1’s governing body and Mercedes immediately condemned Piquet’s remarks upon their revelation, and Hamilton, the sport’s only black driver, stated that “these archaic mindsets need to change and have no place in our sport.”
As a result of the court’s ruling, Piquet has faced significant consequences, including a significant financial penalty and a ban from the F1 paddock. Hamilton’s honorary Brazilian citizenship, awarded last June, demonstrates the respect he has earned in the country as a symbol of diversity and inclusion. However, the ruling also highlights the need for continued efforts to combat racism and homophobia, both in Brazil and globally, so that all individuals, regardless of race or sexual orientation, can participate in sports without fear of discrimination.
The case also emphasizes the importance of accountability for individuals who make discriminatory comments or engage in discriminatory behaviour. By holding Piquet responsible for his actions, the court sends a message that such behaviour will not be tolerated and that there will be consequences for those who engage in it.
Hamilton’s activism on issues of diversity and inclusion has been a significant part of his public persona in recent years. His advocacy has helped to shine a light on issues of discrimination and inequality within the world of Formula One and beyond. While there is still much work to be done to create a more inclusive and equitable society, Hamilton’s efforts and the court’s ruling against Piquet represent a step in the right direction.
Piquet has been prohibited from entering the F1 paddock.
According to Sky Sports News, Piquet is not permitted to re-enter the F1 paddock following his remarks.