Helmut Marko apologizes for defamatory comments about Sergio Perez

ReutersSep 9, 2023, 08:18 AM ET3 minutes of reading

Sergio Perez is second in the drivers’ championship behind teammate Max Verstappen.Eric Alonso/Getty Images

Red Bull motorsport adviser Helmut Marko apologized on Friday for blaming the fluctuating form of Mexican driver Sergio Perez, one of the leading figures in the dominant Formula One team, on his race.

The 80-year-old Austrian, a former racing driver who is a close friend of Red Bull’s late owner Dietrich Matschitz, made a formal statement via the www.servustv.com website.

„I want to apologize for my offensive comment and I want to make absolutely clear that I do not believe we can generalize about any country, any race, any ethnic group of people,” he said.

“I was trying to make a point that Czecho [Perez] His performance has fluctuated this year, but it would be wrong to attribute this to his cultural heritage.”

Marco made his comments on the energy drink company’s TV station following last weekend’s Italian Grand Prix at Monza.

„We know he’s had problems qualifying, he’s had ups and downs in form, he’s South American and he’s not fully focused in his head like Max. [Verstappen] Or Sebastian [Vettel],” he said then.

This is not the first time Marco Perez has been referred to as South American, the Mexican geographically hailing from Guadalajara in North America.

South America has produced more Formula One world champions than any other country except Britain and produced some of the sport’s greatest drivers.

Marco’s attempt to clarify his views dug a deep hole.

Marco told www.oe24.at website on Friday: „It was not said that way. I said that a Mexican has a different mentality than a German or a Dutchman. But who knows, maybe it was controlled.”

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The initial comments made headlines in Mexico and across the Internet.

Red Bull Racing head of car engineering Paul Monaghan (L) pictured with Helmut Marko and team principal Christian Horner.Dan Mullen/Getty Images

Mexican Grand Prix organizers expressed their support for Perez in a statement.

„There is no place for inappropriate comments in any environment, including sports. It is important to take steps to prevent it and apologize when necessary,” they said. „We invite everyone to build a more respectful and united Formula One community, promoting healthy competition on and off the track.”

While Marco attends races in a Red Bull Racing uniform, he reports to the energy drink company and is not an employee of the British-based champions.

„This cannot keep happening to Sergio Perez.” race Earlier announced. „He deserves more than a senior figure in Red Bull’s Formula One organization to laugh at his disparaging comments. The way Helmut Marko talks about him needs to stop.”

The @RBR_Daily fan page on social media platform X, previously Twitter, condemned Marco’s comments.

„Such comments will not be tolerated. A racial stereotype was used to criticize his performance which is completely insulting and inexcusable,” it said.

Perez joins Red Bull in 2021 as he looks for a solid team-mate to support Dutch driver Max Verstappen, who is now heading for his third world title. Germany’s Vettel, now retired, took four wins for Red Bull from 2010-13.

The Mexican has won six races, two of them this season, and has a contract until 2024.

He is second overall in the championship but is 145 points behind Verstappen after 14 of 22 races and his future beyond 2024 remains uncertain.

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Marco praised Perez for finishing second in Italy last weekend, giving Verstappen his 10th win in a row.

„He had a very good race. It’s not easy to overtake George Russell and three drivers in Ferraris,” said the Austrian.

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