Was Nelson Piquet’s language really racist?

Formula One has seen a huge row develop today over historic footage uncovered where Nelson Piquet apparently used a racial slur against Lewis Hamilton. F1, the FIA, Mercedes and others have all come out against the Brazilian 3 times world champion for his use of the Portuguese word “neguinho” to describe Lewis Hamilton.

In previously uncovered footage Nelson Piquet has been revealed analysing the collision between Hamilton and Verstappen at the 2021 British GP. He was scathing of Hamilton’s driving suggesting it was “dirty” and that Lewis was “lucky” he hadn’t seriously injured Max Verstappen.

During his analysis, he described called Hamilton a  “neguinho” which given cultural and linguistic nuances has a range of meanings.

In its purist form in Portuguese the term can can mean “little black child” though as TJ13 reported earlier it can be understood to mean something more derogative.

READ MORE: Piquet calls Hamilton a “Nigga”

Following an initial twitter uproar, Rodrigo Piquet – a relative of Nelson’s – attempted to explain the term “neguinho” is a family “word of love” – and that his grandmother used this frequently as the English term “naughty boy”.

Max Vertsppen’s girlfriend who’s father is Nelson Piquet liked the comment.

There are parallels with a situation involving English Premier League footballers Louis Suarez and Patrice Evra. Sure was accused of using the Spanish word “Negrito”. Similarly to the Portuguese word used by Piquet, this is a diminutive version of the world “negro”.



In broad terms Manchester Unit’s Evra antagonised Liverpool’s Saurez, who responded using a term he claimed was not racist.

“Did I use the Spanish word “negro” in an argument that took place, in Spanish, with Patrice Evra on 15 October 2011 in a game between Liverpool and Manchester United


“Is the word “negro” the same in Spanish as it is in English?

“No, absolutely not.

“Am I a racist?

“No, absolutely not.”

Full Story in the Guardian



In a complicated explanation, Saurez argues he is not claiming Evra’s behaviour was because he was ‘black’, but simply using a designation of Evra that described him as loveable miscreant – something acceptable in his culture.

The idea that a South American grandmother would chide her grandchildren using a cultural term which is not racist, is clearly culturally the norm in a number of Latin American countries.

And given a motif of Black Lives Matter is “pass the mic, white guy” – a suggestion white people aren’t able to discuss racism – may well suggest even those who feel oppressed by racism, use similar colour based topes to fight their cause.



Lewis Hamilton’s team mate George Russell aook to social media on Tuesday to back up his team-mate, posting:

“Huge respect to LH. He has done more for the sport than any driver in history, not just on track but off it.

“The fact that he and so many others are STILL having to deal with this behaviour is unacceptable. We all need to stand together against discrimination of any kind.”

Yet is the default position that any long standing colloquialism from societies where these phrases are long standing and not in fact racist hatred, to be condemned?

Maybe English parents should not be allowed to use the term, “you little bugger”, given it’s gay connotations. 

Clearly as the father of Verstappen’s girlfriend Piquet was not compliment ing Hamilton, and this may be the context where the use of the phrase ““neguinho” was clearly insulting. To chide one’s family with a twinkle in the eye is one thing, but Piquet was scathing in his views on Hamilton’s behaviour.

READ MORE: Piquet calls Hamilton a “nigga”

9 responses to “Was Nelson Piquet’s language really racist?

  1. If this was clearly out of character, then yeah, you could say it was just a bad choice of words. It would still need some clarification and apology from Nelson himself.
    But he was a chauffeur for a known racist Bolsonaro and you can pretty safely assume he agrees with Bolsonaros views.
    So he does not get a pass on this one.

  2. Yes it is ! I know Brazil and i had seen Piquet in many occasions ; fair styled driver for race, he already was a fucked bastard in any communication with others on the track out of car because he is very superior (remember his clash in Monza …) ; cencerning a half black person even, a Paulist Brazilian often thinks it is an inferior person, as an ancient slave. So PIQUET is racist, it is in him anyway.

  3. Anyway, faher-in-law, father (Verstappen), etc. they all must let drivers live their lifes without pression adn commentaries each week-end.

  4. Once you mention race with the negative thats when it becomes a problem. Race should be mentioned as an identifier. in that i can understand and it is not racist. But there is no reason to mention LH or Evras race it bares no context to the situation or adds new information. We are aware of Hamitons race and that bears no context to the incident unless you are implying this was done because he is black. The question is would race be mentioned if LH or Evra was White we know the answer is it would not. So that is what makes it discriminatory

    Also grandmothers calling there children little cute black kids harks back to the days of slavery where slave masters would find the baby slaves cute and mischievous until they grew up enough to be forced into servitude. The UK used to have a goliwog on its Robinsons Jam Jars until they realised the racial connotations

  5. Max Vertsppen’s girlfriend who’s father is Nelson Piquet -> Max Vertsppen’s girlfriend, whose father is Nelson Piquet, …

  6. Max Vertsppen’s girlfriend who’s father is Nelson Piquet -> Max Verstappen’s girlfriend, whose father is Nelson Piquet, …

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