Marko gets written warning from FIA for Perez comments

MONZA, ITALY - SEPTEMBER 01: Red Bull Racing Team Consultant Dr Helmut Marko talks with Red Bull Racing Team Principal Christian Horner in the garage during practice ahead of the F1 Grand Prix of Italy at Autodromo Nazionale Monza on September 01, 2023 in Monza, Italy. (Photo by Mark Thompson/Getty Images)

On Friday in Singapore, Formula 1’s governing body, the FIA issued a written warning to Red Bull’s motorsport consultant Helmut Marko after the Austrian blamed the patchy form of the team’s Mexican driver Sergio Perez on his ethnicity.

Marko, 80, apologised last week after referring to Perez as a “South American” who was less focused than dominant Red Bull teammate Max Verstappen or the team’s now-retired champion Sebastian Vettel.

“We can confirm that Helmut Marko has received a written warning and been reminded of his responsibilities as a public figure in motorsport in line with the FIA Code of Ethics,” said an FIA spokesman at the Singapore Grand Prix.

Perez said on Thursday he had accepted a personal apology from Marko, whose comments continued to provoke a strong reaction in the paddock.

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

“We laugh about [Mexico being in] South America… but it’s a topic that’s not at all funny,” Mercedes team boss Toto Wolff told reporters.

Marko’s comments had made headlines in Mexico and across the internet

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)

“It’s not only what has been said but the mindset that you can even come up with these things, and that hasn’t got any place in F1. That’s not something that should have been said in the past and certainly not now,” added Wolff.

His comments echoed strong criticism from Mercedes driver Lewis Hamilton who on Thursday had said Marko’s words were “not something that you just apologise and it’s all OK”.

“It was not a great comment. I can understand why people were offended by it,” said McLaren team boss Zak Brown.

Perez joined Red Bull in 2021 with the team looking for a solid team mate to support Dutch driver Verstappen, who is now heading for his third world title. The Mexican has won six races, two of them this season, and has a contract for 2024.

“I’m Italian so I know that sometimes we have been facing the same comments,” said Alfa Romeo’s Alessandro Alunni Bravi.

“I think that everyone must be respected. We are all working hard, we are all trying to prove that we can do a good job here in Formula One at any level,” the Italian insisted.

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Red Bull boss Christian Horner was questioned by Sky Sports F1 about Marko’s statement on Friday in Singapore, he said: “Those comments weren’t right.

“Helmut quickly recognised that and apologised for that both publicly and directly to Sergio. He spoke to Sergio directly about it.

“You are always learning in life even at 80 years of age,” Horner claimed. “Inevitably lessons have been learned. Checo is a massively popular member and important member of our team. I pushed very hard to sign him for the 2021 season.

“We have a huge following around the world and we take that very seriously, very responsibly. The fan following that the team has, Checo has and F1 has, we are very conscious of it. This is his 250th race and we want to focus on that.

“From Helmut’s perspective he has apologised. He’s not an employee of Red Bull Racing, so in terms of why didn’t we put out a statement, he’s part of the Red Bull Group and the Group issued an apology through the Servus TV channel,” Horner explained.

(Reporting by Alan Baldwin, Additional reporting by GrandPrix247)