Marko under fire for “South American” Perez comments

SPIELBERG, AUSTRIA - JULY 09: Sergio Perez of Mexico and Oracle Red Bull Racing talks with Red Bull Racing Team Consultant Dr Helmut Marko during practice ahead of the F1 Grand Prix of Austria at Red Bull Ring on July 09, 2022 in Spielberg, Austria. (Photo by Clive Rose/Getty Images)

Red Bull motorsport consultant Helmut Marko drew further criticism after attempting to clarify comments he made suggesting Sergio Perez’s fluctuating form is down to ethnicity.

The 80-year-old Austrian, a former F1 driver and Le Mans winner who was a close friend of Red Bull’s late owner Dietrich Mateschitz, made the initial remarks on the energy drink company’s Servus TV following last weekend’s Italian Grand Prix.

“We know that he has problems in qualifying, he has fluctuations in form, he is South American and he is just not as completely focused in his head as Max (Verstappen) is or as Sebastian (Vettel),” said Marko.

It was not the first time Marko has referred to Perez as a South American, although the Mexican comes from Guadalajara which is geographically in North America.

South America has also produced a fair share Formula 1 world champions from Brazil and Argentina, among them greats such as Juan Manuel Fangio and Ayrton Senna.

The website on Friday reported Marko as saying: “It wasn’t meant that way. I meant that a Mexican has a different mentality than a German or a Dutchman. But who knows, maybe it’s controlled.”

Marko is famous for not mincing his words

Max Verstappen, Helmut Marko

The initial comments made headlines in Mexico and across the internet. While Marko is a key figure who attends races in Red Bull Racing uniform, he reports to the energy drink company and is not an employee of the British-based champions, who had no immediate comment.

Perez joined Red Bull in 2021 with the team looking for a solid teammate to support Dutch driver Max Verstappen, who is now heading for his third world title. Vettel won four for Red Bull from 2010-13.

The Mexican has won six Grand Prix races, two of them this season, and has a contract for 2024. He is second overall in the championship but is 145 points behind Verstappen after 14 of 22 races and his future after 2024 remains uncertain.

Marko did compliment Perez for finishing second in Italy last weekend at Monza, a race that handed Verstappen a record 10th win in a row: “He had a very good race. Overtaking three drivers, in George Russell and the Ferraris, was not easy.” (Reporting by Alan Baldwin)