Nelson Piquet: ‘There is nothing, nothing I said wrong. I am not racist’


Nelson Piquet was racing last weekend at the Le Mans Classic, where he dismissed the storm over his Lewis Hamilton comments as "bullshit" and claimed some critics were using him to discredit the Brazilian president

Nelson Piquet wearing red cap

Joe Portlock/Getty Images

Nelson Piquet has dismissed the race row over his Lewis Hamilton comments as “bullshit” and declared: “There is nothing, nothing I said wrong”.

After a storm of controversy last week over a TV interview where he referred to Hamilton by the colour of his skin rather than his name, Piquet was banned from the Formula 1 paddock.

But the 69-year-old Brazilian was still in the pitlane last weekend, racing at the Le Mans Classic where he shrugged off the denunciations, saying: “I don’t really care, it doesn’t disturb my life. I am here with my friends, we are having fun, that’s it.”

His initial comments emerged in a Brazilian TV interview, where Piquet spoke Portuguese as he discussed Hamilton’s clash with Max Verstappen at last year’s British Grand Prix. It first aired last November and resurfaced on social media last week.

The three-time world champion was condemned by many, including Formula 1 and the Mercedes team. He was criticised by Hamilton, who spoke of Piquet’s “archaic mindset” and said that the comments were not representative of where Formula 1 was now.

Nelson Piquet with Jair Bolsonaro

Piquet (with mic) claims he’s being discredited because of his association with Brazilian president Jair Bolsonaro (right)

Piquet apologised to Hamilton but maintained that he was not being racist and said that he had used an inoffensive colloquial term.

Speaking in the Drivers’ Club at Le Mans last weekend, he expressed his views more forcefully.

“This is all bullshit, I am not racist,” he said. “There is nothing, nothing I said wrong. What I said is a very soft word — we even use it for some of our white friends.

“I used this word almost one year ago in the interview and they come up with this. It has caused me some problems but to be honest with you I don’t really care.

“Here I have no obligations to do anything any publicity, nothing, just a bit of racing and I have really been enjoying.”

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Piquet suggested that some of his critics had an ulterior motive because of his connections in Brazilian politics.

“There is so much bullshit going on particularly there in Brazil,” he said. “You may not know that I am very close to President Bolsonaro and I think he is very good for Brazil. But the press in Brazil is very negative about him and anything they can do to discredit him they will do, so if they discredit me, it rubs off on him because Brazil knows we are close.”

The former Williams driver, who is also the father of Max Verstappen’s girlfriend, said that his low-key appearance at the Le Mans Classic was long-planned.

Tucked away unheralded among the almost 600 entries at the historic event was his 1970 Porsche 914/6 GT, one of the slowest machines in its 1966-1971 group, and shared with Fred Della Noce and Dener Pires.

Piquet implied that being banned from the Formula 1 paddock would have little effect on him, as he rarely attends races.

“When I stopped racing I went into business in Brazil and it has been very busy building up that business, so really there are very few places I go from my motor racing life,” he said. “I was invited to drive this little Porsche 914 by a friend – a very slow car, less than 200hp, but I thought I would come here to have some fun.

Nelson Piquet Porsche 930 at the 2022 le Mans Classic

Piquet and two friends were among the Le Mans Classic runners last weekend


“I came here with the McLaren [F1 GTR] in ‘96 and ‘97 and I still remember the circuit a little bit – so I am just doing something  to have fun with friends.”

“I am feeling well, the business is good and Brazil is going well these days. Actually, I have to say, I hope to have fun for another ten years.”

As he was called away by his team-mates to prepare for the race, Piquet reiterated his view of his recent controversy, saying: “I really don’t care.”