Max Verstappen says Nelson Piquet is “definitely not a racist” but agrees the term he used to describe Lewis Hamilton was “very offensive”.
The incumbent world champion, whose partner is Kelly Piquet, stated that the three-time world champion should not be banished from the Formula 1 paddock for his remarks.
Piquet partially apologized for his remark regarding Hamilton, stating that the phrase he used was not intended as a racial slur.
Verstappen made it obvious that he disagreed with Piquet's choice of words in a recent interview that attracted extensive attention.
“Everyone is against racism,” Verstappen said in a press conference for media including RaceFans. “I think it’s very straight, there’s nothing more you can make of that.
“I think the wording which was used, even though of course with different kinds of cultures and things probably they said when they were little and younger, was not correct. Let it be a lesson for the future not to use that word because it’s very offensive and especially nowadays it gains even more traction.”
However, he stated that his encounter with Piquet gave him confidence that the three-time world champion did not intend to use a racial slur.
“I’ve spent a bit of time with Nelson, I think more than the average person in general, and he is definitely not a racist,” said Verstappen. “He’s actually a really nice and relaxed guy.
“I’m pretty sure also, in the statement he released, I think you can see the word in two ways. But I think it’s still just better not to use it.
“But it’s not only about that word, it’s not about the ‘n-word’ in general, just using offensive language to anyone, any colour, I think is not correct and that’s what we have to work on in general all over the world not only in F1 with Lewis specifically but to anyone in the world.”
Verstappen, who referred to Piquet as his "father-in-law," stated that he had not spoken with him about his remarks and the backlash they elicited.
“I don’t think he needs me to tell him what is right and what isn’t,” he said. “He already said in his statement I think he realised that he used the wrong word.
“So who am I to then call him? I don’t think it will change anything anyway. I think he realised it was probably not the correct word to use – well, clearly it’s not the correct word to use.
“It can be interpreted in two ways and of course people pick up on the bad side and then it gets really blown out of proportion. Because I know Nelson personally, people label him as a racist now, which I don’t think he is. But I fully agree, of course, that you cannot use these words.”
F1 will not allowed Piquet to enter the paddock as a result of his comments. Verstappen stated that he does not believe that Piquet's suspension is the appropriate response to the circumstances.
“I think it’s better to open a conversation instead of banning because when you ban people, then you are actually not even helping the situation,” he said. “You’re not talking. You have to communicate.
“Communication is really important because if you just ban that is not helping what you’re trying to enforce, right? You’re trying to educate people. So it’s better to have a chat.
“These things can be very easily solved. When you have a fight with someone and you insult someone and you have a good chat and you apologise, in these kind of things is exactly the same. It’s of course not nice to the one you upset but things can be easily forgotten and as long you learn from the mistakes you made or the wording you use.
“I don’t think you should be banned from from the paddock. And especially, I don’t think, a three-time world champion.”
Verstappen hasn't spoken to Hamilton about Piquet's comments. “We don’t need to talk because he has all my respect like every other driver, exactly the same,” he said, “and he knows how I feel and think about this situation just like any other driver. Together with F1 and Lewis we are all behind the initiatives taken already, we’re in full support.”
Juri Vips was sacked from his Red Bull team's young driver programme earlier this week after using a racial slur during a live television broadcast. However, Vips' Formula 2 team Hitech has taken no action against him and will continue to enter him in the competition, provoking anger from the series' organizers.
Verstappen believes that Vips, like Piquet, should have the chance to rehabilitate himself.
“The team dealt with that also in a similar matter. He’s not part of Red Bull Racing at the moment as a reserve and test driver.
“But I do feel that people deserve a second chance. Probably not a third, but things can be very easily said probably sometimes not even really thought about how badly it can hurt someone or influence someone.
“I know Juri also probably a bit more than the average person and he is actually a super-nice guy. And I think he really understood what he did wrong because, of course, he is also now in a very difficult moment now in his career, everyone judging him.
“Fair enough: What he said was not correct. But I definitely think he deserves a second chance.
“I read the statement about F2 that they wouldn’t have done the same. But I think people deserve that second chance to show that they learnt from what they did wrong and actually go out there and show that you can be a better person or at least be more educated about what you are going to say.”