One cannot both apologize and "clarify" at the same time.
Ex-driver and Formula 1 champion Nelson Piquet faced widespread condemnation and backlash after video footage surfaced of Piquet using racist terminology in his native Brazilian Portuguese to describe Formula 1 driver Lewis Hamilton. There has also been some debate over the English translation of the word Piquet used during a 2021 podcast interview.
In some contexts, the word is considered to be the Portuguese equivalent of the N-word, and some have equated the word more literally to "little black" or "little colored," both of which are obviously racially-motivated translations. Since the footage of Piquet's comments, which were made in regard to a racing incident at last year's British Grand Prix, the Brazilian driver has issued an apology, in addition to defending his actions.
Frankly, only one of those can be done at a time whilst appearing sincere. "What I said was ill thought out, and I make no defense for it, 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," Piquet stated.
"I apologize 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," he concluded.
It should be noted that Piquet has a history of inflammatory behavior within the sport. As recently as 2020, Piquet has referred to Ayrton Senna as "gay." Piquet, 69, has also called Enzo Ferrari "senile." Piquet is perhaps best known for attacking Chilean driver Eliseo Salazar after Salazar took him out of a race.
Since the ex-driver's remarks became publicly known, the Formula 1 community has rallied around Hamilton, whom many consider to be one of the sport's most transformative and important figures. The sport's governing body, the FIA, stated it "strongly condemns any racist or discriminatory language and behavior." Fellow driver Charles Leclerc (Ferrari) issued the below statement on his personal Instagram account yesterday.
As of today, reports began circulating in the Formula 1 paddock that Piquet would be banned from attending races. For Piquet, this could be problematic. His daughter, Kelly Piquet, is currently in a relationship with Red Bull champ Max Verstappen. The Brazilian driver can also be seen frequently at races, particularly the Brazilian Grand Prix.
Reportedly, the reason for the paddock ban goes beyond Piquet's remarks. Those familiar with Formula 1 paddock life have called racist language like that used by Piquet standard paddock banter. The sport's expensive and exclusive nature lends itself to a majority European and heavily white demographic, which can in some cases lead to derogatory and racist comments being made as jokes, as the Hamilton Commission found. The Hamilton Commission is dedicated to improving the "progression of Black people within UK motorsport."
Hamilton, who has his hands on a number of projects outside of the sport, like the Mercedes-AMG ONE hypercar and his own Hamilton Commission, was very vocal about the remarks, stating in a Brazilian language tweet "Vamos focar em mudar a mentalidade," which translates to "Let's focus on changing the mindset" in English.
As of this post's writing, Piquet has not been banned from the paddock yet and has not issued any further statements. At this time, Hamilton has not said more on the matter.