The British Racing Drivers’ Club (BRDC) suspended the honorary membership of triple Formula One world champion Nelson Piquet on Thursday after he used racially offensive language to refer to Lewis Hamilton.
The BRDC, which owns the Silverstone circuit that hosts the British Grand Prix, said in a statement it planned ultimately to terminate Piquet’s membership.
It noted the 69-year-old Brazilian had apologised to the seven-times world champion but said it had a zero-tolerance policy towards racism.
“The BRDC Board has concluded that Mr Piquet Sr’s use of racially offensive language to describe a fellow BRDC member (and seven-times world champion) is unacceptable and represents conduct that is wholly inappropriate for an Honorary Member of the BRDC, notwithstanding his subsequent apology,” it said in a statement.
“Accordingly, we have advised Mr Piquet Sr that his membership has been suspended with immediate effect. “Following the Club’s due process, it is anticipated that the Board will terminate Mr Piquet Sr’s membership at a board meeting to be held after the required 7-day notice period.”
Formula One sources have said Piquet is also no longer welcome inside the paddock, although he has not been a regular attendee.
Piquet was four times a British Grand Prix runner-up, finishing second twice at Silverstone and twice at Brands Hatch.
Hamilton has won a record eight times at Silverstone.
Red Bull’s reigning world champion Max Verstappen, whose partner Kelly is Piquet’s daughter, told reporters banning the Brazilian from the paddock would be a wrong step.
“I think it’s better to open a conversation instead of banning him,” said the Dutch driver, who recognised the words used by Piquet had been offensive and should not have been used.
“When you ban people then you are actually not even helping the situation, you are not talking. You have to communicate. Communication is really important. “If you just ban them it is not helping what you are trying to enforce, right? You are trying to educate people, so it’s better to have a chat.”
Verstappen said he had spent some time with Piquet and the champion was “definitely not a racist. He’s actually a really nice and relaxed guy.”
He also said he had not talked to Hamilton about the controversy but the Briton already knew how he felt and had his full respect.