Lewis Hamilton arrives at Silverstone paddock hours after Ecclestone backed Piquet in racism row


Lewis Hamilton arrives at Silverstone ahead of the Formula One British Grand Prix… hours after ex F1 boss Bernie Ecclestone backed Nelson Piquet in N-word racism row

  • Billionaire Bernie Ecclestone said the N-word comment made by Nelson Pique was just ‘part of the conversation’ for the Brazilian
  • The Ex-Formula One owner made the bizarre comments during an interview with Good Morning Britain (GMB) 
  • He also said the thousands of civilian deaths in the Ukraine war were ‘not intentional’

Lewis Hamilton headed to work on Thursday afternoon as the Formula 1 race row intensified.

The Mercedes driver was pictured arriving at Silverstone ahead of this weekend’s British Grand Prix, hours after former F1 boss Bernie Ecclestone defended Nelson Piquet in the N-word racism row against the British driver. 

Lewis wore a bold outfit of a bright pink and yellow padded coat teamed with purple trousers for his Silverstone visit.

Work: Lewis Hamilton headed to work on Thursday as the F1 race row intensified. The driver was pictured arriving at Silverstone ahead of this weekend's British Grand Prix

Work: Lewis Hamilton headed to work on Thursday as the F1 race row intensified. The driver was pictured arriving at Silverstone ahead of this weekend’s British Grand Prix

The driver, who looked in good spirits, was seen posing for selfies with fans as he strolled inside.

Lewis’ appearance came hours after Bernie Ecclestone defended long-term friend Nelson Piquet after he branded Hamilton the N-word. 

In a bizarre interview on Good Morning Britain, the ex-Formula 1 owner, 91, branded  69-year-old dictator Putin a ‘first class person’ and ‘sensible’, before telling Hamilton he should ‘brush aside’ Piquet’s racial slur and ‘be happy’ with his apology.  

Say cheese: The driver, who looked in good spirits, was seen posing for selfies with fans as he strolled inside

Say cheese: The driver, who looked in good spirits, was seen posing for selfies with fans as he strolled inside

His former colleagues were quick to distance themselves from his remarks, with F1 releasing a statement to say they were ‘in very stark contrast to the position of the modern values of our sport.’

Ecclestone had been invited on the show to discuss the latest racism storm engulfing F1, after a video surfaced of Nelson Piquet calling Lewis Hamilton the N-word while discussing his crash with Max Verstappen at Silverstone last year.

While the Brazilian has apologised and insisted his language had no racist intent, he faces being banned from the F1 paddock. But Ecclestone, his long time pal, rushed to his defence today. 

Bold: Lewis wore a bold outfit of a bright pink and yellow padded coat teamed with purple trousers for his Silverstone visit

Standing out: The sportsman ignored the warm temperatures in his colourful coat

Bold: Lewis wore a bold outfit of a bright pink and yellow padded coat teamed with purple trousers for his Silverstone visit

Race row: Lewis' appearance came hours after Bernie Ecclestone defended long-term friend Nelson Piquet after he branded Hamilton the N-word

Race row: Lewis’ appearance came hours after Bernie Ecclestone defended long-term friend Nelson Piquet after he branded Hamilton the N-word

He told GMB: ‘I’ve known Nelson for an awful long time. I was with him a couple of weeks ago. 

‘It’s not the sort of thing Nelson would say meaning something bad.

‘He probably thinks lots of things he says which might upset us or might feel a little bit offensive…. to him it’s nothing. It’s just part of conversation.

‘Nelson would never go out of his way to say anything bad, certainly. 

Drama off the track: A video surfaced this week of Nelson Piquet calling Lewis Hamilton the N-word while discussing his crash with Max Verstappen at Silverstone last year

Drama off the track: A video surfaced this week of Nelson Piquet calling Lewis Hamilton the N-word while discussing his crash with Max Verstappen at Silverstone last year

Focused on the drive: Lewis looked relaxed as he greeted others at the track

Focused on the drive: Lewis looked relaxed as he greeted others at the track 

‘I think what probably happened, knowing Nelson as I know him, as his daughter is the girlfriend of Max Verstappen, probably after seeing the accident, he probably exploded and carried that forward.’

Social media users reacted furiously to his comments, with one tweeting: ‘What a small minded idiot’, while others accused him of being ‘racist.’ 

Ecclestone discovered Piquet, the son of a prominent Brazilian politician, more than 40 years ago, when he would sneak him onto the track in the boot of his car. 

Looking back on how he helped shape him into the champion he became, Ecclestone said in a 2020 interview that Brazilian Piquet was ‘special’, and a ‘super competitor’ who ‘wanted to win.’ 

Support: Ecclestone's former colleagues were quick to distance themselves from his remarks, with F1 releasing a statement to say they were 'in very stark contrast to the position of the modern values of our sport'

Support: Ecclestone’s former colleagues were quick to distance themselves from his remarks, with F1 releasing a statement to say they were ‘in very stark contrast to the position of the modern values of our sport’

Ecclestone’s wife, Fabiana, 45, is also Brazilian. They met in 2009 when she was in the marketing department for the Brazilian Grand Prix. 

She was elected vice-president of the motoring governing body FIA last year, covering the South American region, which raised eyebrows among industry leaders. 

In a video released on Monday, Piquet – whose daughter Kelly is dating Hamilton’s rival Verstappen – said: ‘The n******* put the car in the wrong way and didn’t let [the other driver swerve].

‘The n******* put the car in the wrong way on the corner, it’s because you don’t know the curve. It’s a very high curve, there is no way to pass two cars and there’s no way you can put the car aside. He did [Verstappen] dirty. His luck was that only the other one was gone.’

Fans: Social media users reacted furiously to his comments, with one tweeting: 'What a small minded idiot', while others accused him of being 'racist'

Fans: Social media users reacted furiously to his comments, with one tweeting: ‘What a small minded idiot’, while others accused him of being ‘racist’

On Tuesday Hamilton hit back at Piquet’s racial slur, writing ‘Imagine’ next to a tweet which said ‘what if Lewis Hamilton just tweeted ‘Who the f*** is Nelson Piquet?’ then closed twitter’.

Responding to the racist comments, Hamilton said: ‘It’s more than language. These are archaic mindsets need to change and have no place in our sport.

‘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 also posted a message in Portuguese, Piquet’s native language, which translates to ‘let’s focus on changing the mindset.’

In the bizarre interview on Good Morning Britain, former Formula 1 owner Ecclestone, 91, also branded 69-year-old dictator Vladimir Putin a 'first class person' and 'sensible'

In the bizarre interview on Good Morning Britain, former Formula 1 owner Ecclestone, 91, also branded 69-year-old dictator Vladimir Putin a ‘first class person’ and ‘sensible’

Thursday’s interview also saw Ecclestone call civilian losses in Ukraine after Russian attacks on apartment buildings and a shopping mall this week ‘not intentional’, despite tens of thousands of innocents feared dead at the hands of indiscriminate shelling. 

The billionaire is a long-time admirer of Putin and the duo have been seen at sporting events together, often in deep conversation or laughing. 

Their friendship blossomed following the introduction of the Russian Grand Prix in 2014.

Even the day after Russian troops stormed Ukraine in February this year, Ecclestone described Putin as ‘honourable’ and someone who ‘did exactly what he said he was going to do without any arguments.’ 

Friends: Ecclestone had been invited on GMB to discuss the latest racism storm engulfing F1

Friends: Ecclestone had been invited on GMB to discuss the latest racism storm engulfing F1

On Tuesday Lewis hit back at Piquet's racist comments, calling for 'action' against the 'archaic mindsets'. He added a message in Portuguese, the Brazilian drivers native language, saying 'let's focus on changing the mindset'

On Tuesday Lewis hit back at Piquet’s racist comments, calling for ‘action’ against the ‘archaic mindsets’. He added a message in Portuguese, the Brazilian drivers native language, saying ‘let’s focus on changing the mindset’

Ecclestone sparked outrage when he took a shot at Ukraine’s President Volodymyr Zelensky, saying he was a comedian before the Ukraine war and appeared to ‘want to continue being one.’ 

He then insisted the invasion ‘could have ended differently’ if Zelensky had ‘talked with Putin’. 

When pressed by journalist Kate Garraway, who asked if he believed a change in Zelensky’s actions, rather than Putin’s, could have avoided war, Ecclestone replied: ‘Absolutely.’

He added: ‘What he’s doing is something he believed was the right thing for Russia. 

‘Unfortunately, like a lot of business people, certainly like me, we make mistakes from time to time, and when you’ve made the mistake you have to do the best you can to get out of it.’

Rivals: Max Verstappen pictured at Silverstone on Thursday. Lewis' race rival is dating Nelson Piquet's daughter Kelly

 Rivals: Max Verstappen pictured at Silverstone on Thursday. Lewis’ race rival is dating Nelson Piquet’s daughter Kelly

He added: ‘I think if it had been conducted properly – I mean the other person in Ukraine… I understand he used to be a comedian, and I think he seems to want to continue that profession… I think if he had thought about things he would have definitely made a big enough effort to speak to Mr Putin, who is a sensible person and would have listened to him and probably done something about it.’  

Presenter Ben Shephard quizzed Ecclestone about the thousands of innocent lives killed in Ukraine, asking him: ‘You can’t justify that, surely?’ 

Ecclestone responded: ‘I don’t. It wasn’t intentional – look at all times America has moved into different countries which is nothing to do with America.’ 

He added: ‘And I’m quite sure Ukraine, if they’d wanted to get out of it properly, could have done.’

Asked if he has had a chance to speak to Putin about ‘what a mess’ the situation is or urged him to rethink what he is doing, Ecclestone said: ‘No. He’s probably thought about that himself. He probably doesn’t need reminding.

‘I’m absolutely sure he now wishes he hadn’t started this whole business, but didn’t start as a war.’

Full transcript of Bernie Ecclestone’s comments on Vladimir Putin’s Ukraine invasion and Nelson Piquet’s F1 N-word storm

Kate Garraway: ‘What do you make of this [Piquet controversy]?’

Ecclestone: ‘I’ve known Nelson for an awful long time. I was with him a couple of weeks ago.

‘It’s not the sort of thing Nelson would say meaning something bad.

‘Very often these things get said, and he’s Brazilian and when he came to England he didn’t speak any English so he probably picked up the English sense of humour, and he probably thinks lots of things he says which might upset us or might feel a little bit offensive…. to him it’s nothing. It’s just part of conversation.

‘Nelson would never go out of his way to say anything bad, certainly.

‘I think what probably happened, knowing Nelson as I know him, as his daughter is the girlfriend of Max Verstappen, probably after seeing the accident, he probably exploded and carried that forward.

‘I know his feelings, because I was alone, I exploded.

‘He was upset with the accident, thinking it was wrong and probably thinking it was Lewis’ fault – I did as well, as it happens.’

Ben Shephard: ‘The term Piquet used is described as archaic and not appropriate…’

Ecclestone: ‘Well it’s probably not appropriate with us, but it’s probably not something terrible that happens if you said it in Brazil…

‘People talk about people if they happen to be a bit overweight or a little under size like me, I’m quite short and a lot of people have made comments about that. If I’d have heard it I would have been able to deal with it myself without too much trouble and I’m surprised that Lewis hasn’t sort of brushed it aside or better than that, replied.

‘But he’s now come out, and Nelson’s apologised, and he should be happy.’

Kate Garraway: ‘Is there an out of date mindset in your sport that has to change?’

Ecclestone: ‘I think the world has an out of date mindset… I think a lot worse happens in football, directly in front of cameras… I don’t know what you can do about stopping people saying something that at the time may appear to be appropriate to them but may not be in reality… you can’t make rules about what people can or cannot say.’

Ben Shephard: ‘But you can condemn it Bernie…’

Ecclestone: ‘Well I haven’t got an opinion’

Kate Garraway: ‘Well someone you do have an opinion on is Vladimir Putin… Do you still regard him [Putin] as a friend?’

Ecclestone: ‘I would still take a bullet for him… I mean I’d rather it didn’t hurt but if it did I’d still take a bullet.’

Kate Garraway: ‘Why?’

Ecclestone: ‘Because he’s a first class person and what he’s doing is something he believed was the right thing for Russia.

‘Unfortunately, he’s like a lot of business people, certainly like me, we make mistakes from time to time, and when you’ve made the mistake you have to do the best you can to get out of it.

‘I think if it had been conducted properly – I mean the other person in Ukraine… I understand he used to be a comedian, and I think he seems to want to continue that profession… I think if he had thought about things he would have definitely made a big enough effort to speak to Mr Putin, who is a sensible person and would have listened to him and probably done something about it.’

Ben Shephard: ‘The actions of Vladimir Putin has led to the deaths of thousands of Ukrainians, a lot of Russian servicemen as well, you can’t justify that, surely?’

Ecclestone: ‘Well I don’t – It wasn’t intentional. Look at all the times America has moved into countries that have nothing to do with America. Actually in America it’s their business they like wars because they sell a lot of armaments so it’s good for them.’

Kate Garraway: ‘So you think president Zelensky should have done more to avert this war and it could have been avoided by Zelensky’s actions, not by a change in Putin’s actions?’

Ecclestone: ‘Absolutely.’

Kate Garraway: ‘What we see is one country invading another…’

Ecclestone: ‘That’s very clever to work that out, because I suppose that’s what happened, but it wasn’t intended to be a war and I’m quite sure if Ukraine wanted to get out of it properly they could have done.’

Garraway: ‘Have you had a chat with Putin?’

Ecclestone: ‘No. He’s probably thought about that himself. He probably doesn’t need reminding.

‘I’m absolutely sure he now wishes he hadn’t started this whole business, but it didn’t start as a war.’

Ben Shephard: ‘What do you make of Grand Prix removing Russia from the calendar and Russian drivers as well?

Ecclestone: ‘I’m not in the position now to have done anything about that. I’m not sure I would have stopped that, and I certainly now wouldn’t, and I think it’s wrong, to stop Russian athletes, including obviously drivers, in taking part in their sport.

‘They didn’t get involved in this in the first place. They shouldn’t be punished.’

Kate Garraway: ‘Are you worried at all about aligning yourself with Vladimir Putin?’

Ecclestone: ‘Not at all, not at all. He’s a person that probably if he was business would have made a mistake, and wishes he hadn’t have made it. But after things have happened it’s a bit too late. It could have been stopped very, very easy.’

Ben Shephard: ‘Putin could stop military action easily if he wanted to… your friend isn’t making that happen’

Ecclestone: ‘If you think about it, our friend in Ukraine could have stopped it easier, couldn’t he?’

Kate Garraway: ‘He was in his own country and soldiers came into his country, that’s a much harder conflict to walk away from… they’ve got to protect their homes.’

Ecclestone: ‘Maybe the best thing he could have done was to have spoken to Putin.’ 

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