Sergio Perez confirmed on Thursday that he received an individual apology from Red Bull chief Helmut Marko, following controversial remarks that seemed to suggest Perez’s cultural background was the cause for fluctuating performance levels on the racetrack.
Marko’s remarks were shared last week on ServusTV, an Austrian media outlet affiliated with Red Bull, where he tagged Perez as “South American” which he suggested could be associated with an inconsistent performance or lack of concentration. However, Perez hails from Mexico, typically recognized as part of North or Central America.
Without delay, Marko extended a public apology the following Friday on ServusTV, over his self-described “offensive remark”. He admitted to mistakenly associating Perez’s performance with his heritage. As an ex-F1 driver himself, 80-year-old Marko holds significant influence within Red Bull and its sister team, AlphaTauri, in his role as motorsport adviser.
From Perez’s end, he confirmed receiving an apology from Marko and emphasized its importance, mentioning to Sky Sports in a lead-up to the Singapore Grand Prix, “I got an apology from him, a direct apology, which to me was the most important one.” He added, “I know him, and I know that he doesn’t mean it that way as well. That to me is what matters.”
Currently second in the driver’s standings, Perez expressed his desire to shift his focus back to racing, trailing behind teammate Max Verstappen.
Seven-time champion Lewis Hamilton, recognized for his extensive efforts to advocate for diversity within auto racing, shared a different perspective. Expressing to Sky Sports, he branded Marko’s comments as “entirely unacceptable” and proposed that an apology wasn’t sufficient.
Highlighting the underlying issues, Hamilton declared, “I think it just spotlights the work that still needs to be done.” As the sole black driver in F1, he continued, a substantial hurdle remains in breaking down these existing biases and it’s challenging to progress when leaders continue to hold such restrictive mindsets.