Dr. Helmut Marko, the motorsport advisor for Red Bull, recently created discord following the Italian Grand Prix. His comments placing blame on driver Sergio Perez‘s inconsistent performance on his South American heritage drew widespread criticism. On Red Bull‘s own Servus TV channel, Marko said, “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).”
Many found Marko’s comments as a flagrant racial stereotype, considering that Mexico, Perez’s home, is in fact part of North America. The controversy led to Marko issuing a formal apology.
However, Lewis Hamilton, a forefront campaigner against discrimination in Formula 1, voiced his concerns that an apology was insufficient. He further highlighted the seeming lack of response on this issue from leading figures in Formula 1. Hamilton told Sky, “I think this is not something that you just apologise [for] and it is all okay. I think there needs to be more done.”
He made mention of instances when team personnel or drivers had made such misguided comments and were either removed or publicly denounced by teams. “So it is interesting they haven’t done so for this one” he said, taking a not-so-subtle jab at the lack of action from Red Bull on this issue.
Hamilton made a point to contrast this with his own team’s approach. He said, “That’s not my team. That’s not how we move as a team. And I think it just shows how important is that we continue to do the work, the work that I’m trying to do with my team, and with the sport.” He then emphasized that push towards ensuring a more inclusive environment across the sport has a long way to go.
Hamilton would be referring to Red Bull‘s past dismissals of people making racist comments, such as in the case with former reserve driver Juri Vips in 2022. This has not been an isolated case in the sport with other teams like Mercedes also having had to let go of personnel due to similar instances.
Hamilton asserted that Marko’s comments were a serious hindrance to the sport’s aim of fostering inclusivity and eradicating discrimination. “I mean, it’s completely unacceptable what he said,” Hamilton said strongly. He further expressed, “And while we say there is no room for any type of discrimination within the sport, which there should be no room for, to have leaders and people in his position, making comments like this is not good for us moving forwards.”
Hamilton concluded with a further call to action, saying this gives needed attention to the work that still needs doing, while recognising the ongoing efforts to combat such issues in the sport. He highlighted the difficulty of making progress when people in top positions possess such mindsets.