Lewis Hamilton has issued a passionate and dignified response to Nelson Piquet’s comments, questioning why “we are giving older voices a platform” but also insisting he will “take the high road” and that the scandal will not deter him from striving for progress on and off the track.
On Thursday ahead of the British GP, Hamilton faced the media for the first time following Piquet’s comments surfaced, with the Brazilian former F1 champion having used a racially offensive term when referring to Hamilton.
Piquet apologised on Wednesday and said his comments from November last year were “ill thought out” – but denied any racial intent.
Hamilton had already posted on social media that “archaic mindsets need to change” in response to Piquet, 69, and he expanded at Silverstone.
“I’ve been on the receiving end of racism, criticism, negativity, archaic narratives and undertones of discrimination for a long, long time, and there’s nothing really particularly new for me,” the seven-time F1 champion said. “It’s more about the bigger picture.
“I don’t know why we are continuing to give these older voices a platform.
“They’re speaking upon our sport and we’re looking to go somewhere completely different. If we’re looking to grow in the US, other countries, South Africa, we need to look to the future and give the younger people a platform, who are more representative of today’s time.
“it’s not just about one individual, it’s not about the one use of that term, it’s the bigger picture.”
Hamilton, in a measured media briefing ahead of his home race, also made reference to Sir Jackie Stewart, 83, calling on him to retire, and Bernie Ecclestone’s (91) recent defence of Piquet and Russian President Vladamir Putin.
“It just comes back down to F1, the media, we should not be giving these people a platform,” he stated. “Discrimination is not something we should be projecting and promoting, giving a platform to divide people.
“We need to be bringing people together, we are all the same.
“It is not helpful, the comments we are seeing from some people. I don’t think there’s been a day gone by where people who are older – who haven’t been relevant in our sport for decades – haven’t being saying negative things and trying to bring me down.
“But I’m still here, I’m still standing strong, I’m focused on my work and really trying to push for diversity and inclusion in our organisation.”
Hamilton was then asked if he had lost respect for those ‘older voices’.
“I’ve always tried to take the high road, I’ve always tried to be respectful to these individuals,” he said. “But as I was saying before, why do we give these guys a platform? They’re not with the times, they’re clearly not willing to change.
“These times of discrimination and micro aggressions, in today’s world it’s just not helpful and it’s creating more divide.
“I love how Michelle Obama says ‘when they go low, go high’ so I try to continue to do that, I’m inspired by people like that.
“I’m still here, it’s not going to deter me from what I think is right and doing what I love, which is working in this sport.”
Hamilton: ‘Enough is enough… I can’t do it alone’
Sky Sports understands Piquet is now not welcome in the F1 paddock following his remarks, while on Thursday the 69-year-old had his membership suspended by the reputable British Racing Drivers’ Club.
Thursday also saw Hamilton’s Ignite initiative announce its first diversity grants and following that and F1’s condemnation of Piquet, the Englishman called for more organisations to take a stand.
“It’s not good enough just saying we are also focused on it, just lip service, we really need to push for action,” stressed Hamilton. “That’s why I’m proud of the first step we’ve done with Ignite, and that’s not the end of it, it’s just the beginning.
“I’ve got Mission 44 [a charitable foundation] up and running, I’ve got a whole team working on it, I’ve got my own money in that and I’m out trying to raise money to push this. I’ve got partnerships with Sky, there’s a lot of great work that’s happening. But we need more, and I can’t do it alone.”
He added: “Enough is enough, I try to take the high road but no one should have to brush off racism and it shouldn’t be to me to brush it off. We need organisations to take a stand.”
F1 drivers show support for Hamilton
Piquet’s comments led to widespread condemnation from the F1 community, and that continued on media day at Silverstone as drivers continued to show their support for Hamilton.
Sebastian Vettel, the Aston Martin driver and four-time world champion, said: “I think it’s more than just the recent days, if we are very honest. It is probably what he has been through, what his family has been through his entire life.
“Any form of abuse is wrong so I think it was great to see there was so much response from all of the F1 community and so quickly people responded and expressed support in the matter towards Lewis.
“I don’t think there should be any room for these kind of comments. We still have to do a lot, I think we’ve come a lot further than years ago but it doesn’t help when there’s still these things out there and people using inappropriate comments and people say wrong things.
“I think it is very important to talk about it and continue to talk about it because it’s not gone and it won’t be gone overnight. That would be great, but it is a bigger matter and F1 in that regard has a bigger responsibility to carry and address these issues which I think we’re trying to.”
Hamilton’s British compatriot Norris agreed: “I don’t think this is something Lewis has had just recently, it’s something he’s had to deal with for a lot of his career, since it started.
“I think we all know how strong of a person he is, how he can get through these times because it’s definitely not an easy thing. First of all, I think there’s no room for these kind of comments or people bringing them to F1 and about people, especially on such a public stage.
“Everyone supports Lewis as a person and a driver, I’m sure he’s a strong guy and can get through these times.”
Hamilton’s Mercedes team-mate George Russell also referenced Formula 2 driver Juri Vips’ recent racist remarks, which has seen him dropped by Red Bull.
“I think these two events are obviously horrible to see in today’s day and age,” he said. “It is still ongoing and we all need to stand together to stamp this out.
“We as drivers, as teams and a sport need to use our platform for the greater good, we need to stand up against this and we need to see change.”
Ferrari’s title contender Charles Leclerc told Sky Sports F1: “Obviously the recent events showed we’ve got a long way to go, but I believe that is also a reflection of the whole society.
“We need to be better. Lewis deserves respect obviously, he’s a seven-time world champion, but there’s much more to that, he’s also a person. Everybody deserves respect.
“It’s just a really big shame and very disappointing that there are still people that don’t understand this.”
How to follow the British Grand Prix on Sky Sports
The key times for a must-watch weekend on Sky Sports F1 are:
- Thursday welcomes the return of the live F1 Show from Silverstone at 6pm, as drivers join us for more exclusive interviews
- The track action begins on Friday, with F1 practice, plus F2, F3 and W Series sessions
- British GP qualifying is live at 3pm on Saturday, with build-up from 2.10pm following the W Series race
- The British Grand Prix is live at 3pm on Sunday, with build-up from 1.30pm
All the action can also be followed online and via our digital platforms and streams, while the F1 Show will be live on the Sky Sports F1 YouTube channel. There will also be extensive updates on Sky Sports News.
The live Sky Sports F1 schedule
Thursday, June 30
6pm: The F1 Show
Friday, July 1
9.35am: F3 Practice
10.45am: F2 Practice
12.30pm: British GP Practice One Build-up (session starts 1pm)
2.50pm: F3 Qualifying
3.35pm: British GP Practice Two Build-up (session starts 4pm)
5.25pm: F2 Qualifying
6.10pm: W Series Qualifying
Saturday, July 2
9.50am: F3 Sprint Race
11.45am: British GP Practice Three Build-up (session starts 12pm)
1.10pm: W Series Race
2.10pm: British GP Qualifying Build-up
3pm: British GP Qualifying
4.55pm: F2 Sprint Race
6pm: Ted’s Qualifying Notebook
Sunday, July 3
8.30am: F3 Feature Race
10am: F2 Feature Race
1.30pm: Grand Prix Sunday: British GP Build-up
3pm: THE 2022 BRITISH GRAND PRIX
5pm: British GP reaction: Chequered Flag
6pm: Ted’s Notebook
F1 2022 heads to Silverstone for the big event of the motorsport summer. Join Sky Sports F1 for extensive coverage across the British GP weekend – the race starts at 3pm on Sunday, July 3.