It’s kind of bizarre that an interview Nelson Piquet Sr. went unnoticed for months. already existed in November 2021, is suddenly the dominant topic in Formula 1. On the Thursday before the Silverstone Grand Prix, the FIA press conference was all about Piquet and Bernie Ecclestone’s recent verbal gaffes, and even in a separate media round by Max Verstappen, racism and its consequences were the most popular topic.
The reigning Formula 1 champion doesn’t think it’s right that his father-in-law – Verstappen is in a relationship with Piquet’s daughter Kelly – could even be imposed a paddock ban: “I think it would be better to talk to people instead of excluding them. If you Shutting people out won’t improve the situation. You have to communicate.”
Ultimately, the goal is to “educate” people who make such outrageous statements, says Verstappen. “And then it’s better to talk. That can be sorted out. If you have an argument with someone and hurt them, then you talk and apologize.”
At best, it could be the same with racist statements: “It’s not nice when you hurt someone, but you can put that behind you, as long as you learn from the mistake and sincerely apologize, I don’t think that’s why you turn someone off should ban the paddock. Especially not a three-time world champion.”
“The words were incorrect”
Piquet twice used the word “Neguinho” for Hamilton in an interview that has only now circulated internationally. This has been translated as “little Negro” by some media, although according to a native Brazilian speaker it translates much more accurately as “little black man”.
There are no two opinions in enlightened circles that this is still severely racist, because Piquet defines Hamilton purely through his skin color and also degrades it with a trivialization. Verstappen does not even protect his father-in-law in this regard.
“The words that were used, even against the background of different cultures and that it was normal when he was younger, were not correct. We have to learn from this that something like this shouldn’t be said in the future because it’s very hurtful is. And it’s very clear that something like that is doing the rounds in this day and age.”
Verstappen: Piquet is “definitely not a racist”
But: “I’ve spent a bit of time with Nelson and probably know him a bit better than most people. He’s definitely not a racist. He’s a very nice and laid-back guy. The statement he issued also shows that You can see the wording in two ways. But clearly it would have been better not to say that.”
“But it’s not just about that, it’s not just about the N-word,” says Verstappen. “Using such language against anyone, regardless of skin color, is not correct. We have to work on that as a society in general, not just in Formula 1 and not just specifically in relation to Lewis.”
Incidentally, the 24-year-old has no intention of speaking to his almost 70-year-old father-in-law about the subject or even lecturing him: “It’s not my job to talk to my father-in-law about it. I certainly won’t call him and tell him : ‘Hey man, that’s not okay.’ He knows that too.”
“I don’t think he needs me to tell him what’s right and what’s not. He already said in his statement that he realized he was wrong. Who am I to call him then And telling him that again? Wouldn’t change anything anyway. I think he realizes that it wasn’t correct to use that word. It clearly isn’t.”
“It’s like he says: The word can be read two ways and of course people pick up the bad side. Then it all gets blown out of proportion. I know Nelson personally. People are now labeling him as a racist. I don’t think he is – although I agree that you shouldn’t say it like that.”
No conversation with Hamilton yet
He also didn’t talk to Hamilton about the affair: “I’ve just arrived at the track. We all have a lot to do. We don’t have to talk at all. He has my respect, like any other driver. He knows how I do about this situation. We all stand behind the initiatives that are being taken and will support them.”
By the way: Verstappen thinks that the young driver Jüri Vips, who was recently fired from the squad by Red Bull, also deserves a second chance. Vips used the word “nigger” while playing a video game in a live stream and then apologized for the statement.
The career of the 21-year-old is now on hold. Verstappen advocates that “people deserve a second chance. Maybe not a third. But sometimes things slip out of your head and you don’t realize at first how much it can hurt others.”
“I know Jüri a bit better than many others. He’s a super nice guy. I think he understands what he did wrong. He’s at a very difficult point in his career now because everyone is pointing fingers at him . Okay, what he said wasn’t correct. But I think he deserves a second chance.”
Because, and this is the crux of the matter: “To show that he understands what he did wrong and that he can become a better person,” Verstappen gave the former Red Bull Junior advice.