The Brazilian, world champion in 1981, 83 and 87, was fined $ 945,000 last week by a court in Brasilia for calling Lewis Hamilton, himself a seven-time F1 champion, a "neguinho" ("little black") during an interview with the website in 2021.

The court ruled that these "intolerable" remarks constituted a "serious offense to the fundamental values of society" and sentenced Piquet, 70, to a heavy fine for "collective moral damages", the money to be paid to associations fighting against discrimination.

Piquet made the remarks commenting on the rivalry between Max Verstappen and Lewis Hamilton. His daughter Kelly is the partner of Verstappen, himself world champion in 2021 and 2022.

"I think you shouldn't give people who are full of hate a platform to express themselves," Hamilton, the first black driver in F1 history, told a news conference ahead of this weekend's Australian Grand Prix.

"I would like to thank the Brazilian government and I find it quite remarkable that they held someone accountable for their words and showed that this could not be tolerated," the Mercedes driver continued. "Racism and homophobia are not acceptable and have no place in our society and I am very happy that they have shown that."

Nelson Piquet later apologized for his remarks, saying their purpose was not to offend anyone.

Hamilton, 38, won the F1 world championship in 2008 with McLaren and then in 2014, 2015, 2017, 2018, 2019 and 2020 with Mercedes.

However, he was beaten in 2021 by Max Verstappen and his Red Bull at the end of the last race of the season and in circumstances disputed by Mercedes. The Dutchman was crowned again in 2022, with Hamilton failing to win a Grand Prix during the season for the first time since 2007. He currently has a record 103 GP wins.

His contract with Mercedes expires at the end of the season but the Briton reiterated on Thursday that the team was "his family" and that he planned to stay there "until his last days".

The German team is struggling for the second consecutive season and can no longer worry Red Bull.

© 2023 AFP