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Brazil's triple Formula One champion Nelson Piquet must pay $953,050 in moral damages for racist comments against Mercedes driver Lewis Hamilton, a Brazilian court ruled. Image Credit: REUTERS

Rio de Janeiro: Retired Formula One champion Nelson Piquet has been ordered by a Brazilian court to pay $950,000 in “moral damages” for making racist and homophobic comments about Lewis Hamilton.

The 70-year-old Brazilian had referred to seven-time champion Hamilton as “neguinho,” a racially offensive term which means “little Black guy,” in 2021. In another interview, Piquet used racist and homophobic language.

The court in Brasilia on Friday ordered Piquet to pay 5 million Brazilian reals “in collective moral damages, to be allocated to funds for the promotion of racial equality.”

The charges were filed by several human rights groups.

In their complaint, the human rights groups said that Piquet violated the norm of human dignity enshrined in the country’s constitution. The judge said Piquet’s comments corresponded to the definition of racial discrimination outlined in Brazil’s 2010 Statute of Racial Equality.

Hamilton had condemned “archaic mindsets,” and the Mercedes driver said he had been “surrounded by these attitudes and targeted (my) whole life.” He is the only Black driver in F1 and received honorary citizenship from Brazil last year.

Piquet, who won three F1 titles in the 1980s, was discussing a crash between Hamilton and Red Bull driver Max Verstappen that took place during the British Grand Prix in 2021. His daughter Kelly Piquet is Verstappen’s girlfriend.

Racial term

Piquet later apologized in a statement for the “ill thought out” racial term but said it “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.”

In his decision, judge Pedro Matos de Arruda said “subtlety is one of the characteristics of contemporary Brazilian racism” and that the word is “not an affectionate nickname.”

The retired driver has the right to appeal the ruling.

Piquet had angered some F1 fans for his support of former far-right President Jair Bolsonaro. He donated about $95,000 to Bolsonaro’s failed re-election bid.