Social Media has given people a voice like never before. In the wake of the latest incident of racism to hit Formula One, this time following the publication of Nelson Piquet’s remarks about Lewis Hamilton, many F1 drivers have used social media to voice their support for the seven-time F1 Drivers’ World Champion.
This week was meant to see Formula One celebrating the launch of their latest console game – F1 22. The game is the most cutting edge yet utilising the latest technology. Unfortunately, due to outdated mindsets, the focus of the sport has rightly been shifted away from virtual reality to a very real and shocking reality.
This past week, on Tuesday, Red Bull Racing announced it had terminated its contract with the team’s junior driver Juri Vips in response to the racial slur used by Vips during a Twitch live stream. This was the same day that comments from a November 2021 podcast - featuring an interview taken in July 2021 with three-time Formula One Drivers’ Champion Nelson Piquet - hit the headlines. In what has been widely reported, Nelson Piquet used an unacceptable term to describe Lewis Hamilton. A term which, when translated, is a racial slur.
As much as social media has given people a voice, there is also a demand to know what a person will do with that voice.
Unfortunately, due to Nelson Piquet being the father of Max Verstappen’s girlfriend, Kelly Piquet, sections of the media and fan base have seemingly been waiting to see what Max Verstappen would say on the matter. At the time of this going to press no remarks are yet to come from the current F1 Drivers’ Champion camp. However, Red Bull Racing did add the line 'The team do not condone any form of racism' in their statement which announced the termination of Vips’ contract. Some sections of the fan base have demanded for Red Bull Racing to do more and in the world of PR it is not a wild assumption to expect further comments on this issue to emerge from the team this week.
Meanwhile, other teams and drivers soon took to Twitter and Instagram to voice their support for Lewis Hamilton, but it did not go unnoticed that no one called out the comments of the 69-year-old three-time F1 Drivers’ Champion by name. Formula One, the FIA and Mercedes were all quick to condemn racist language but did not mention Nelson Piquet in their statements – even though it was clear what the matter was in reference to.
Lando Norris and Nicholas Latifi both retweeted Lewis Hamilton’s 'It’s more than language…' tweet and several teams shared statements in support of Hamilton and Mercedes.
Woking-based racing outfit McLaren, tweeted, “McLaren Racing stands alongside @LewisHamilton and @F1. Racism must be driven out of our sport, and it’s our shared responsibility to unite and eliminate it” While Aston Martin posted on the same site “We stand with @LewisHamilton and all those around the world affected by racism or discrimination of any kind. There is no room for this abhorrent behaviour in our sport or society.” Further support came from Alpine and Scuderia Ferrari.
Several of the drivers from the current F1 grid also posted their own thoughts on the matter as opposed to just a retweet of previously issued statements. Unsurprisingly, Lewis Hamilton’s teammate George Russell was one of the first to do so as he tweeted: “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.”
Scuderia Ferrari’s Charles Leclerc also made his voice heard by posting a statement of his own on Twitter as well ashis Instagram story, saying:
“Knowing Lewis since I arrived in Formula 1, he has always been extremely respectful to me and everyone that he meets. Those values should be the standard towards anybody around the world. The comments made towards Lewis should not be tolerated, and we should continue to push for a more diverse and inclusive sport. We need to remove discriminatory behaviour and racist language in any form from not just our sport, but our society as well.” Leclerc’s teammate, Carlos Sainz, retweeted Scuderia Ferrari’s statement in support of Hamilton, Mercedes and F1.
Esteban Ocon posted a lengthy statement within which it said “enough is enough” and “we are proud to have him[Lewis] at the forefront of our fight for further diversity and inclusion in motorsport.” F1’s rookie of the grid Zhou Guanyu tweeted, “I join Lewis and the motorsport community in standing against any form of racism, discrimination and prejudice.” Meanwhile, Mick Schumacher shared Mercedes’s post to his Instagram story with the comment “We stand with you @lewishamilton.”
Unfortunately, social media provides so many avenues to be heard that if one person was to only look at one website, they would miss what was posted on others. Namely, that some drivers chose to take to Instagram to share their thoughts, others chose Twitter and a few posted to both.
Herein lies the problem, in an age when people are quick to condemn others for not speaking out. Instagram Stories are only live for 24 hours (unless archived to the page) and as such, having not chosen to post to Twitter, there is a strong chance people would miss remarks made or worse still - feel that nothing had been said.
For instance, Daniel Ricciardo used his Instagram Story to write at length on the issue and said, in part: “Those who still choose to spread hate and use those words are no friends of mine. I want to acknowledge Louis and all the work he has done both on and off the track to not only spread messages of equality but combat that hate. I've never dealt with any racially motivated actions, but he has for his entire life. Yet each time his response to the haters motivated by maturity positivity and educating the world on how we should act.”
Sebastian Vettel is well known as an advocate for change and campaigns for a host of global and moral issues. However, as Sebastian Vettel does not use social media and so has not spoken out on Nelson Piquet’s remarks, does that mean he does not stand with Lewis Hamilton? Of course not! It should not be the words which are typed out online which represent us but instead the actions of how we live.
In conclusion, if your favourite driver has not yet posted on social media or released a statement in response to this – that should not allow anyone to decide that this indicates their character as not caring. Social media is an incredible avenue to get people to listen to you, but we have been taught from a young age that actions speak louder than words. After all, this is the very point which Lewis Hamilton, the man actually impacted by Piquet’s actions, made on the matter in one of his statements.
"There has been plenty of time to learn. Time has come for action."