Following the Italian Grand Prix, Red Bull‘s motorsport consultant, Helmut Marko, made racially insensitive comments regarding one of the team’s drivers, Sergio Perez. The remarks which were made in an interview with Servus TV were directed at Perez’s ethnicity, and baselessly blamed it for his inconsistent performance this year.
In his comments, Marko inaccurately referred to Perez as South American, asserting, “he is South American and he is just not as completely focused in his head as Max [Verstappen] is or as Sebastian [Vettel]”. It is worth noting, however, that Perez is actually Mexican, hailing from North America.
Marko’s culturally insensitive statements drew widespread censure, most notably from seven-time world champion Lewis Hamilton, who took to his social media platforms to express his disappointment. Hamilton dubbed Marko’s remarks as “completely unacceptable,” adding that he wasn’t taken aback by such utterances from Marko.
In response to the widespread outrage on social media, Marko publicly apologized on the Red Bull-owned TV channel Servus. Additionally, he privately made amends with Perez. Despite Marko’s apology, Red Bull‘s Formula 1 team faced its share of criticism for not issuing a public statement on the matter.
Ahead of the Singapore Grand Prix, team boss Christian Horner joined a press conference, where he made some clarifications. Horner stated, “Well firstly, those comments, they weren’t right. I think Helmut quickly recognised that and apologised for that both publicly and spoke directly to Sergio about it.”
Further, Horner alluded to the learning experience gained from the incident, stating, “I think you’re always learning in life, even at 80 years of age, and I think inevitably lessons have been learned.” On Perez’s role in the team, Horner shared high praises, “Checo is a massively popular member of our team, is an important member of our team. I pushed very hard to sign him back in for the 2021 season.”
Moving towards explaining the team’s silence on the issue, Horner highlighted Red Bull‘s global fan following and their commitment to respecting it. Moreover, he drew the difference between Red Bull Racing and the Red Bull Company to explain why Red Bull‘s F1 team did not issue a statement about Marko’s comments.
He concluded, “From Helmut’s perspective, he’s 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 wider group, and the group obviously issued that apology through the Servus TV channel.”