Lewis Hamilton, F1‘s singular Black driver, recently expressed a lack of surprise upon coming across Helmut Marko‘s offensively derogatory comments in regards to the ethnicity of Sergio Perez. Hamilton suggested that most other teams would have taken a far more severe stance against Marko’s unfortunate comments.
Following the Italian Grand Prix, Marko, acting in his role as motorsport consultant for Red Bull, put forth the notion that Perez’s ethnicity was the reason behind his underperformance throughout the season. According to Marko, Perez’s South American origin was to blame for his inconsistent form. “We know that he has problems in qualifying, he has fluctuations in form,” asserted Marko. He went on to compare Perez to Max Verstappen and Sebastian Vettel, stating, “He is South American and he is just not as completely focused in his head as Max [Verstappen] is or as Sebastian [Vettel].”
As could be expected, Marko’s words sparked a maelstrom of controversy on social media, leading to him being compelled to issue a public apology and extending a similar apology to Perez in private.
Hamilton, providing his view to Sky Sports, made it fairly clear that he found Marko’s comments inexcusable. “It’s completely unacceptable what he said,” said Hamilton, expressing his belief that it demonstrated the long road ahead in combating discrimination within the sport. He underlined the problematic nature of having people in positions of authority express such problematic opinions, which he feels could impede progress in the right direction.
Although Marko’s comments thrust the Red Bull team into significant pressure, leading to demands for the team to condemn Marko’s actions, it’s noteworthy that Marko is not an actual employee of the company. Regardless, he is closely associated with the Formula One team and its brand image.
In response to Marko’s apology, which was aired on Red Bull-owned TV channel Servus, Hamilton expressed his dissatisfaction, suggesting that perhaps more needed to be done than just an apology. “I don’t know what was said beyond, that’s something to ask Checo, but I think this is not something that you just apologise [for] and it’s all ok. I think there needs to be more done,” he stated.
Hamilton continued, noting that teams often take action against individuals, usually drivers, who make such comments by removing them or issuing a statement of non-support. The fact that Red Bull had not done so for Marko’s comments intrigued Hamilton who noted that his own team would have handled it differently.
The recent incident has re-emphasised the necessity of a consistent anti-discrimination stance, according to Hamilton. He stated, “It just shows how important it is that we continue to do the work. The work that I’m trying to do with my team and with the sport. We still have a lot of work to do moving forward to make sure that this is a more inclusive environment.”