Lewis Hamilton has said Formula One should ignore “old voices” speaking on behalf of the sport, as former CEO Bernie Ecclestone has voiced his support for Russian President Vladimir Putin’s invasion of Ukraine.
Hamilton, a seven-time world champion and the only black driver on the grid, spoke in response to Nelson Piquet’s comments, which resurfaced last year, in which the three-time champion repeatedly used a racist term to refer to Hamilton.
Ecclestone defended Piquet and said he was surprised Hamilton hadn’t “pushed aside” the comment.
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The 91-year-old, who was previously criticized by Hamilton for comments on racism and diversity in F1, said Piquet’s closeness to reigning driver’s champion Max Verstappen could explain his comments and that Piquet would ‘never bother to say anything bad’ .
Piquet is the father of Verstappen’s girlfriend of two years, Kelly Piquet.
“Knowing Nelson as I know him as his daughter is Max Verstappen’s girlfriend, probably after he saw the accident [between Hamilton and Verstappen during last year’s British Grand Prix] … then he probably blew up and carried it on somehow,” Ecclestone told British breakfast show Good Morning Britain.
Ecclestone, who controlled F1 for decades before stepping down in 2017, also defended Vladimir Putin over the invasion of Ukraine and said he would “take a bullet” for the Russian president.
“Bernie Ecclestone’s comments are his personal views and are in stark contrast to (the) position of our sport’s modern values,” F1 said in a statement.
Hamilton wondered why Ecclestone was even featured on TV.
“Someone who ultimately believes in the war, the displacement of millions of people and the murder of thousands of people? It’s a mystery to me and I can’t believe I heard that,” he said.
“I don’t know why we keep giving these older voices a platform because they’re talking about our sport and we’re trying to go somewhere else. And I don’t think it’s representative of who we are as a sport now and where we want to go.
“These old voices, whether unconscious or conscious, don’t agree that people like me, for example, should be in a sport like this, don’t agree that women should be here.
“Discrimination is not something we should project or encourage.”
In an apparent response to Ecclestone’s comments, Hamilton added: “Nobody should have to dismiss racism and it shouldn’t be my job to dismiss it.”
Verstappen said Piquet erred in using a word he called “very, very offensive” but didn’t think it was racist.
“Let us be a lesson for the future not to use that word because it’s very, very offensive and especially nowadays it’s becoming more and more important,” he said.
“But I spend a lot of time with Nelson, I think, more than the average person in general. And he’s definitely not racist, and he’s actually a really nice and chilled guy.
“I’m pretty sure that, [through] In the statement he released, you can see the word in two ways, but I think it’s still better not to use it.”
Verstappen said he did not confront his “father-in-law” about the incident.
‘It’s not my place to talk to my father-in-law, as I think any of you do. We’re not going to call and say, ‘Hey man, that’s not correct.’ I think he knows that himself,” he said.
Piquet has been suspended from his honorary membership of the British Racing Drivers’ Club, which owns and operates the Silverstone circuit used for this weekend’s Grand Prix. He also faces revoking his lifetime paddock access, which is granted to all former champions.
Piquet apologized to Hamilton on Thursday but said while the term was “ill thought out” it was not meant to be offensive.
Piquet’s comments were widely condemned by F1 management, the FIA governing body and most drivers.
During his press conference, Alfa Romeo driver Zhou Guanyu said he faced a lot of negativity and racist comments on social media when he signed his contract to become the first driver from China in Formula 1.
“Lewis is trying in a way to help the world move forward and it’s not just for us but for the younger generation to set a better example for them,” he said.
Verstappen’s Red Bull team previously issued a statement which said: “The team does not condone any form of racism.”
It made no mention of Piquet and focused on the team’s decision to fire F2 driver Juri Vips from a test and reserve driver role for using a racial slur during an online gaming livestream.
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