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Max Verstappen says Nelson Piquet F1 paddock ban a mistake but condemns racist slur towards Lewis Hamilton

Chronicle Live logo Chronicle Live 30/06/2022 Catherine Furze

Formula One world champion Max Verstappen has broken his silence to insist that Nelson Piquet is not a racist, although he condemned the language used by the three-time world champion about fellow driver Lewis Hamilton. Piquet, the father of Verstappen's girlfriend Kelly Piquet, used a racial slur about Hamilton in an interview last year, but the contents have only surfaced this week and risk overshadowing the run-up to the British Grand Prix at Silverstone this weekend.

Piquet's comments have led to widespread condemnation from the F1 community and beyond and have resulted in a ban for the former driver from the paddock. He issued a statement apologising to Hamilton, but denied there was any racial intent behind the word he used and disputed the translation from his native Portuguese into English.

Speaking at Silverstone in advance of the weekend, Red Bull driver Verstappen said he thought Piquet's ban from the paddock was a mistake. "When you ban people, you are actually not even helping the situation, you are not talking," Verstappen said.

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"You have to communicate. Communication is really important, because if you just ban, it’s not helping what you’re trying to enforce.

"You’re trying to educate people. So it’s better to have a chat. These things can be very easily solved.

"When you have a fight with someone and you insult someone and you have a good chat and you apologise, and these kinds of things, it’s exactly the same. It’s not nice, the one you upset, but things can be easily forgotten.

"As long as you learn from the mistake you made or the wording you used, I don’t think you should be banned from the paddock, especially a three-time world champion."

Former Brazilian F1 driver Nelson Piquet © Mark Thompson/Getty Images Former Brazilian F1 driver Nelson Piquet

Piquet had been discussing an incident between Verstappen and seven-time world champion Hamilton at the British Grand Prix last year, when they collided on the first lap. Verstappen and Mercedes driver Hamilton were involved in one of the tightest championship battles in F1 history last year, with tensions often boiling over.

Verstappen and his team Red Bull had remained quiet on the issue, but speaking today (June 30), the reigning world champion said: "I think everyone is against racism, I think it is very straight, there is nothing more you can make of that. I think the wording used, even though we are different cultures and things they said when they were little, was not correct.

"Let it be a lesson for the future not to use that word. It is very offensive and especially nowadays, it gains even more traction."

Hamilton described the slur as "archaic" and also insisted that the "time has come for action". Speaking at Silverstone, Hamilton said: "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.

Mercedes' Lewis Hamilton during a press conference ahead of the British Grand Prix 2022 at Silverstone © Tim Goode/PA Wire Mercedes' Lewis Hamilton during a press conference ahead of the British Grand Prix 2022 at Silverstone

"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."

Ferrari driver Charles Leclerc also believes Formula One has a long way to go in tackling racism within the sport. "These times of discrimination and micro aggressions, in today's world it's just not helpful and it's creating more divide," he said.

"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."

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