Motor racing-Piquet apologises to Hamilton for "ill thought out" comment

FILE PHOTO: Former Formula One driver Nelson Piquet of Brazil arrives at the drivers parade before the Hungarian F1 Grand Prix at the Hungaroring circuit, near Budapest, Hungary July 26, 2015. REUTERS/Bernadett Szabo

(Reuters) - Brazil's triple Formula One champion Nelson Piquet apologised to Lewis Hamilton on Wednesday after a video emerged of him using an apparent racial slur in Portuguese when referring to the Mercedes driver.

Piquet, 69, insisted in a statement however that the "ill thought out" comment made last November had been mis-translated into English.

"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," he said.

"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."

Seven times world champion Hamilton, the most successful driver in the history of the sport, called for action on Tuesday to change "archaic mindsets" after Piquet's comments triggered a media storm and drew widespread condemnation.

Formula One sources have indicated that Piquet, who rarely attends Grands Prix, would no longer be welcome inside the paddock.

Piquet had been commenting on Hamilton's British Grand Prix crash with Max Verstappen a year ago, with the Brazilian saying the Briton had "played dirty".

Piquet's daughter Kelly is world champion Verstappen's partner, and the comments resurfaced as the drivers prepare to return to Silverstone.

Hamilton, who was recently awarded honorary Brazilian citizenship, is the sport's only Black driver.

"It's more than language. These archaic mindsets need to change and have no place in our sport," the Mercedes driver said.

"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."

Motor racing's governing body FIA, Formula One and Mercedes have all issued statements condemning racism but without mentioning Piquet by name.

(Reporting by Alan Baldwin in London, Editing by Hugh Lawson)

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