As the 2021 Formula 1 season drew to a dramatic close, Nelson Piquet infamously made racist comments towards Lewis Hamilton on a Brazilian podcast when discussing the Brit’s rivalry with Max Verstappen (who just so happens to be Piquet’s daughter’s boyfriend). After drawing widespread condemnation at the time, the matter then ended up in court. The result of that case was issued last Friday, with the judge handing the three-time F1 champion a hefty fine for his actions.
As reported by Motorspot.com, four human rights groups brought a court case against Piquet for his derogatory and racist comments. The groups, including Brazil’s National LGBT+ Alliance, sought 10 million Brazilian reals ($1.9 million) as restitution for moral damages. A Brazilian civil court ruled in favor of the plaintiffs, awarding half the demanded damages, equalling 5 million reals ($950,000).
The court case concerned comments made by Piquet in an interview with Ricardo Oliveira in November 2021. During the podcast, Piquet was discussing the crash at Silverstone between Max Verstappen and Lewis Hamilton. He chose to refer to Hamilton using a racial slur in Brazilian Portuguese that roughly translates to “little black.” The term is considered highly racist and inappropriate in wider Brazilian society.
A further clip also surfaced of Piquet using racist and homophobic language towards Hamilton on another podcast, which was also considered in the trial. In the podcast interview, Piquet was discussing the matter of Hamilton’s championship loss to Nico Rosberg in 2016. The ex-F1 driver is well-known for using such offensive tropes, often referring to rival driver Ayrton Senna with homophobic slurs in the 1990s.
As the only black driver in F1, Hamilton has spoken out against discrimination in motorsport. He recently establishing the Hamilton Commission to improve the representation of Black people in the field. Getty Images
The incident shined a light on harmful attitudes in both society and within F1 itself. Posting to social media in the wake of the initial incident, Hamilton stated that “It’s more than language. These archaic mindsets need to change and have no place in our sport.” Piquet would later apologize for his comments while making a weak argument that he intended no racial insult by his words. Regardless, of his actions, he was both banned from the Formula 1 paddock and was also suspended from his honorary membership of the British Racing Driver’s Club.
The judge took a very dim view of Piquet’s behavior in the ruling. The large size of the fine levied was an intentional choice, as a punitive measure to discourage racism and homophobia in broader society. Speaking on the decision, the judge stated the ruling would serve “the reparatory function of civil responsibility, but also (and perhaps mainly) the punitive function, precisely so that as a society we can one day get rid of the pernicious acts that are racism and homophobia.”
According to Judge Pedro Matos de Arrude, Piquet’s comments were in breach of Brazilian laws against racial discrimination, as enacted in a 2010 statute. Piquet’s arguments that the terms used were unoffensive held little water with the court. “Subtlety is one of the characteristics of contemporary Brazilian racism,” stated de Arruda, adding that the word used by Piquet was “not an affectionate nickname.” As reported by DW.com, the hefty fine will be allocated “to funds for the promotion of racial equality and against discrimination of the LGBTQIA+ community.”
Subscribe to Drive Wire. Stay up to speed with the latest news, car reviews, and culture stories sent straight to your inbox daily.
Piquet retains the option to appeal against the court’s verdict. Whether or not he takes the opportunity to make reparations, or to fight the matter further, remains to be seen. In any case, this is perhaps a rare case where racist behavior is being met with real-world consequences. Many would agree with the Brazilian court that a near-seven-figure fine is ample discouragement for such egregious conduct.
Got a tip? Let the author know: firstname.lastname@example.org
The post Former F1 Driver Nelson Piquet Fined $950K for Racist Slurs Against Lewis Hamilton appeared first on The Drive.