Former three-time F1 world champion Nelson Piquet protested that he did not mean to cause the Brit offense
Three-time Brazilian F1 champion Nelson Piquet has issued an apology to fellow motorsport great Lewis Hamilton after being accused of using a racist term to describe the Brit.
Piquet conceded a controversial interview to Motorsport Talk last November which was made public this week.
When discussing a collision between seven-time world champion Hamilton and current F1 king Max Verstappen, who Piquet's daughter Kelly is dating, Piquet used the term "neguinho".
From Piquet's native tongue Portuguese, the word can literally be translated as "little black" but is often used as a term of endearment in Brazil's multicultural, mixed-race society.
In a statement released on Wednesday, the 69-year-old said he wanted to clear up "stories circulating in the media about a comment I made in an interview last year."
"What I said was ill thought out, and I make no defense for it, but I will clarify that the term used is one that has widely and historically been used colloquially in Brazilian Portuguese as a synonym for 'guy' or 'person' and was never intended to offend," Piquet protested.
"I would never use the word I have been accused of in some translations," Piquet claimed, strongly condemning "any suggestion that the word was used by me with the aim of belittling a driver because of his skin color."
The veteran, who during his own racing days regularly clashed with compatriot and Hamilton's hero Ayrton Senna, who he once accused of being gay, then apologized "wholeheartedly" to all those affected, including Hamilton who he called an "incredible driver."
"But the translation in some media that is now circulating on social media is not correct. Discrimination has no place in F1 or society and I am happy to clarify my thoughts in that respect," Pique signed off.
While Piquet was criticized by Hamilton's team Mercedes and governing body the FIA for his original remarks, The Guardian reported that Formula One was understood to have put a ban on Piquet from attending races until he offered Hamilton an apology.
Addressing the row on Twitter on Tuesday, Hamilton first tweeted in Portuguese "we need to change the mentality", before then stating: "It's more than language."
"These archaic mindsets need to change and have no place in our sport," Hamilton also said.
"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," he demanded.
Currently sixth in the drivers' standings and some 98 points behind leader Verstappen, Hamilton returns to action this weekend at the British Grand Prix.