Marko: I would like to apologise for my offensive remark

ABU DHABI, UNITED ARAB EMIRATES - NOVEMBER 20: Third placed Sergio Perez of Mexico and Oracle Red Bull Racing celebrates with Red Bull Racing Team Consultant Dr Helmut Marko and Red Bull Racing Team Principal Christian Horner in parc ferme during the F1 Grand Prix of Abu Dhabi at Yas Marina Circuit on November 20, 2022 in Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates. (Photo by Mark Thompson/Getty Images)

Red Bull consultant Helmut Marko, one of the leading figures in the dominant Formula 1 team, apologised for blaming Mexican driver Sergio Perez’s fluctuating form on his ethnicity.

The 80-year-old Austrian, a former racer who was a close friend of Red Bull’s late owner Dietrich Mateschitz, issued a formal statement via the website. This post is an update from a previous one published on this site yesterday.

“I would like to apologise for my offensive remark and want to make it absolutely clear that I do not believe that we can generalise about the people from any country, any race, any ethnicity,” he said.

“I was trying to make a point that Checo (Perez) has fluctuated in his performance this year, but it was wrong to attribute this to his cultural heritage.”

Marko had made his remarks on the energy drink company’s television station following last weekend’s Italian Grand Prix at Monza.

“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),” he said then.

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 more F1 world champions than any country other than Britain as well as some of the sport’s greatest drivers including Juan Manuel Fangio and Ayrton Senna, among many including World Champions from the continent.

An attempt by Marko to clarify his comments only dug a deeper hole

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)

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.”

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

Mexican Grand Prix organisers expressed their support for Perez in a statement: “Inappropriate comments have no place in any environment, including sport. It is important that measures are taken to prevent it and that apologies are made when necessary.

“We invite everyone to build a more respectful and united Formula One community, encouraging healthy competition both on and off the track.”

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

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. Germany’s now-retired Vettel won four for Red Bull from 2010-13.

The Mexican has won six 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, 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,” said the Austrian. (Report by Alan Baldwin; Additional reporting by Angelica Medina)