Three Brazilian MPs have accused Nelson Piquet of committing a racial crime, asking a court to probe him over his N-word slur against Lewis Hamilton ahead of today’s British Grand Prix
The politicians say they want the former F1 world champion charged over his controversial comments.
Aurea Carolina, Taliria Petrone and Vivi Reis, MPs for the left-wing Socialism and Liberty Party, have lodged a formal complaint with prosecutors in the capital Brasilia.
Petrone, a former teacher who has spent her political career representing Rio de Janeiro, said: ‘Racism, which structures our society, needs to be fought everywhere.’
The MPs added in their complaint: ‘Treating black human beings in a clearly pejorative way, as Mr Nelson Piquet does, goes against practices for implementing equality.’
Specialist lawyer Renan Gandolfi told local press Piquet could now face a criminal probe for using racial slurs and a prison sentence of up to three years plus a fine if convicted.
Prosecutors in Brasilia have yet to comment and it was not immediately clear on Sunday if the complaint would be acted upon and a court investigation leading to possible charges launched.
Piquet was banned from Silverstone earlier this week after using a racially offensive expression in Portuguese to describe Hamilton during an interview in his homeland.
The retired three-time world champion apologised and insisted the word he used was mistranslated, before it emerged he had called him the N-word again.
Leading F1 figures including 2009 world champion Jenson Button and respected commentator Martin Brundle have voiced their disgust over the language Piquet used.
Apologising for using the derogatory Portuguese phrase ‘neguinho’ while referring to seven-time world champion Hamilton in a podcast interview last year, Piquet said: ‘What I said was ill thought out, and I make no defence 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.
‘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.’
There has been much support for Hamilton on social media from his Mercedes team, F1, the FIA and even rivals Ferrari and Charles Leclerc.
Mercedes’ rivals Red Bull have also hit out at Piquet’s comments through team boss Christian Horner, whose comments came after Red Bull released F2 driver Juri Vips this week following controversial comments.
‘First of all, of course, we were appalled at Nelson’s comments,’ the Red Bull boss told Sky Sports. ‘It is from an interview from some time ago and obviously we had had an incident with one of our young drivers at the end of last week.
‘We took very definitive action when he had made a racist comment and we immediately removed him from the team.
‘So we had put out a statement about Juri, then this comes out and we felt we had made a very strong statement through the action of actually dropping Juri from the team and not in any way condoning any form of racism or discrimination.
‘Of course, we are fully behind Lewis, fully signed up to the Hamilton Commission and sometimes actions speak louder than words. The action we took with Juri was draconian but in line with the policy we have.’
The row has seen Hamilton’s fierce rival Max Verstappen indirectly dragged into the mix with the world champion dating Piquet’s daughter Kelly who dumped petrol on the blazing inferno of a story by then liking a social media post defending her father’s comments.
‘I’ve spent a bit of time with Nelson and he’s definitely not a racist’, Verstappen said. ‘He’s actually a really nice and relaxed guy. That word can be interpreted two ways and people pick up on the bad side and, of course, it gets really blown out of proportion.
‘People label him a racist, which I don’t think he is. It’s better to open a conversation than to ban people. You are not helping the situation by doing that. It’s not helping what you are trying to enforce, it’s better to chat. I don’t think he should be banned from the paddock — especially as he’s a three-time world champion.’
Verstappen’s comments came before he was booed after qualifying on Saturday after taking second place on the grid for Sunday’s grand prix. Although the Dutchman was unlikely to have received a warm welcome at Hamilton’s home race anyway given their bitter championship feud that resulted in Verstappen winning his first F1 crown on the last lap of a highly controversial Abu Dhabi Grand Prix last year.
Verstappen was not the only person to come to Piquet’s defence though with former F1 supremo and one-time team boss of the Brazilian during their time at Brabaham in the early 1980s Bernie Ecclestone saying Hamilton should accept Piquet’s apology.
In a bizarre interview on Good Morning Britain, the 91-year-old told Hamilton he should ‘brush aside’ Piquet’s racial slur and ‘be happy’ with his apology.
Hamilton responded during the toxic build up to Sunday’s race, insisting it was time that older voices were ignored from the sport.
The seven-time world champion said: ‘I don’t know why we are continuing to give these older voices a platform.