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Piquet's hefty fine for offensive Hamilton remarks annulled

2 min read

The fine levied against Nelson Piquet by a Brazilian court for his offensive remarks towards fellow Formula 1 champion Lewis Hamilton has now been annulled half a year later.

The 71-year-old Piquet had found himself not just the subject of widespread condemnation but facing actual legal consequences for the way he'd talked about Hamilton, who he referred to as "neguinho" - a word that translates from Portuguese as "little Black man" but that Piquet and his defenders claimed had no racial subtext in this case given how it is sometimes colloquially used in Brazil.

But this justification had not been originally accepted by Brazil's legal system after action was brought against Piquet by human rights groups. And with Piquet having also used language towards Hamilton that was widely regarded as homophobic, he was ruled liable to pay five million Brazilian Reals - currently the equivalent of $990 thousand or £817 thousand.

For the time being, however, Piquet is now off the hook, as originally reported by Brazilian online outlet Metropoles.

Though his initial appeal had been denied, the Court of Justice of the Federal District and Territories - the Federal District being one of the country's 27 federative units and specifically the one that includes capital Brasilia - has cancelled the fine.

As per Metropoles, Piquet's words have now been deemed a deboche - a mockery - but not rising to the level of discurso de odio - hate speech.

The explanation of the use of the word 'neguinho', despite it being "riddled with subtle or involuntary racist inspiration", was accepted.

Remarkably, the homophobic nature of the other offending comment - a reference to "giving ass" - was also apparently disputed by the court as this description could also theoretically relate to a practice in a heterosexual relationship.

The lawyer representing one of the groups behind the original legal action against Piquet said the decision was not surprising but one rooted in principles of "19th century Brazil", and vowed to lodge an immediate appeal with the Supreme Federal Court, the highest court of law in the country.

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