'Time has come for action': Lewis Hamilton, Formula 1 respond to racist comments

Two separate alleged racist incidents made headlines ahead of the British Grand Prix. What is Formula One doing about them?

  • Three-time F1 champion Nelson Piquet allegedly used a racial slur to describe Lewis Hamilton.
  • Red Bull Racing terminated one of its junior drivers for allegedly using a racial slur online.
  • Lewis Hamilton has been working directly with F1 to support diversity efforts and denounce hate.

Formula One addressed multiple alleged racist incidents within the federation Tuesday.

Seven-time F1 champion Lewis Hamilton responded to racist comments reportedly used against him by former champion driver Nelson Piquet. Red Bull, meanwhile, terminated the contract of a different, future driver for an alleged racial slur he used while gaming online.

"It’s more than language," Hamilton, who is the first and only Black F1 driver, wrote on Twitter. "These archaic mindsets need to change and have no place in our sport. 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."

Lewis Hamilton before the Azerbaijan Formula One Grand Prix.

Hamilton's comments came after both the FIA — the governing body that sanctions most high-level motorsports around the world — and F1 stood by him and condemned the alleged racial slur. Neither organization mentioned Piquet by name. 

FIA did not immediately respond to request for comment. 

Although Hamilton also did not mention Piquet by name, he penned another tweet in Portuguese, reading, "Vamos focar em mudar a mentalidade," which can translate to, "Let’s focus on changing the mindset."

Piquet apologized to Hamilton Wednesday but insisted the alleged slur was wrongly translated, condemning "any suggestion that the word was used by me with the aim of belittling a driver because of his skin color."

Piquet, 69, is Brazilian and his daughter, Kelly, is dating Red Bull driver and reigning F1 champion Max Verstappen. Piquet was discussing in Portuguese an incident between Hamilton and Verstappen at the 2021 British Grand Prix when he used the alleged slur to reference Hamilton.

During a press conference in English ahead of the 2022 race, Verstappen said Thursday he believes Piquet is "definitely not a racist" but said the retired driver "was not correct" in his choice of words.

“Everyone is against racism, it’s very straight,” Verstappen said Thursday. “There’s nothing more you can make of that. I think the wording that was used, even with the different kind of cultures and things they probably said when they were younger, was not correct. Let it be a lesson for the future not to use that word because it’s very offensive.

“I’ve spent a bit of time with Nelson, probably more than the average person in general ... He’s actually a nice and pretty relaxed guy."

Also within the Red Bull system, the organization cut ties with Formula Two driver Juri Vips for an unrelated incident involving alleged racial slurs.

Red Bull dumps prospect who used racial slur online

Oracle Red Bull Racing terminated Vips' contract as a reserve/test driver after the team investigated the incident involving an online gaming stream.

"The team do not condone any form of racism," the statement said

Red Bull Racing did not immediately respond to request for comment. 

Vips had been a member of Red Bull's junior driver program, which sponsors drivers through the FIA's Formula ladder and, for some, all the way into F1. Considered one of the top drivers in F2, Vips was no longer listed on Red Bull's junior program website at the time of the announcement.

Mercedes: Hamilton 'spearheading' efforts to eradicate racism in F1

F1 has had its struggles with racism in the past and Hamilton is no stranger to it. But the organization, its teams and drivers have been intentional in recent years about supporting diversification efforts and denouncing hate. 

Mercedes, the eight-time defending constructors' champions that employ Hamilton, said the 37-year-old has "spearheaded our sport’s efforts to combat racism, and ... is a true champion of diversity on and off track,” according to a statement.

Lewis Hamilton wears a "Black Lives Matter" mask ahead of a 2020 race.

Two years ago, Hamilton criticized “ignorant and uneducated” comments by former F1 boss Bernie Ecclestone, who claimed during a TV interview, "in lots of cases, Black people are more racist" than white people.

The British racer also led the effort of many drivers who took a knee before each race of the 2020 season in support of the Black Lives Matter movement. Hamilton criticized some in the sport for their silence in wake of the murder of George Floyd, writing on Instagram that "the way minorities are treated has to change, how you educate those in your country of equality, racism, classism and that we are all the same. We are not born with racism and hate in our hearts, it is taught by those we look up to."

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Mercedes backed its driver after his comments and changed its traditional silver paintwork to an all-black design for 2020 and 2021 in support of Hamilton and Black Lives Matter.

In recent years, Hamilton has worked directly with F1 to increase diversification efforts within the sport. F1 Managing Director Ross Brawn said in 2020 the organization took Hamilton's comments to heart and was working on a grassroots approach to "give greater opportunity to minority and ethnic groups to get involved in motorsport, not just driving but engineering and other activities."

The 2022 British Grand Prix, Hamilton's home race and one he has won eight times during his illustrious career, is scheduled for Sunday.