Nelson Piquet said his racist comments about Lewis Hamilton were “not well thought out”.
Piquet used the term racially offensive in referring to Hamilton in a Brazilian podcast that was revealed this week.
The 69-year-old said he “strongly condemns any suggestion that the word was used by me with the intention of belittling drivers because of the color of their skin”.
“I apologize with all my heart to anyone who was affected, including Lewis,” said three-time world champion Piquet.
Hamilton said Tuesday that “ancient mindsets need to change”, adding: “It’s more than language.
“I was surrounded by these attitudes and targeted my whole life. There was a lot of time to learn. The time has come for action.”
Piquet said he was “not defending” the statement, but added that the term he used “is a term that has historically been widely and historically used colloquially in Brazilian Portuguese as a synonym for ‘man’ or ‘person’ and was never meant to offend.” . .
“I will never use the word I am accused of in some translations.”
He added: “The translations in some of the media that are now circulating on social media are incorrect. Discrimination has no place in F1 or society and I am happy to clarify my thoughts on that.”
Sources in F1 said Piquet, who won the 1981, 1983 and 1987 world titles, would not be allowed to return to the F1 paddock after his comments.
He has long been a controversial character known for making provocative and insulting remarks about his rivals.
Last year, he sparked further controversy when he ushered in Brazil’s far-right President Jair Bolsonaro on the country’s Independence Day.
On Tuesday, Brazilian novelist and lyricist Paulo Coelho condemned Piquet on social media.
“Dear Lewis Hamilton,” Coelho wrote. “Piquet is currently the worst presidential driver in our history. His racist remarks demonstrate the urgent need to return to the spotlight.
“I apologize on behalf of the Brazilian people, who respect and love you.”
The sport has supported Hamilton since Piquet’s remarks, which were condemned by F1, the FIA’s governing body and Hamilton’s Mercedes team, while rivals Ferrari and McLaren have also offered their support.
Red Bull, whose driver Max Verstappen is partnered with Piquet’s daughter Kelly, has not yet commented.
On Tuesday a number of drivers also came to support Hamilton.
Charles Leclerc of Ferrari wrote: “Knowing Lewis since I arrived in F1, he has always had great respect for me and everyone he met.
“Those values should be the standard for everyone around the world.
“The comments made against Lewis should not be tolerated. We must continue to encourage a more diverse and inclusive sport.
“We need to remove discriminatory behavior and racist language in all its forms, not only from our sport, but also from our society.”
Hamilton’s team-mate George Russell, director of the Grand Prix Drivers’ Association, said: “Huge respect to LH. He has done more for the sport than any other driver in history, not only on track but off it as well.
“The fact that he and many others still have to deal with this behavior is unacceptable. We must all stand together against discrimination of any kind.”