Helmut Marko digs a deeper hole for himself

Red Bull Racing's Helmut Marko has faced backlash for xenophobic comments on Sergio Perez's failure to keep up with his teammate .

Helmut Marko, the key advisor at Red Bull Racing, has come under fire for his comments regarding Formula 1 driver Sergio Perez’s focus and nationality.

Marko’s remarks, made after Perez’s performance at the Italian Grand Prix, have ignited a debate on stereotyping and the impact of such remarks in the world of motorsport.

During the Italian Grand Prix, Sergio Perez displayed a remarkable recovery by finishing second, following a challenging qualifying session that saw him start from the fifth grid slot. 

Helmut Marko initially commented on Perez’s performance while speaking to ServusTV, saying, “The Italian GP was surely one of Checo Perez’s best weekends, and we know about his problems in qualifying, which is where he has his doubts.”

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However, the controversy ensued when Marko made an assertion about Perez’s nationality, stating:

“Let’s remember that he is South American, and so his head is not as focused as Max Verstappen or as Sebastian Vettel was, but racing is his forte, and he had a very good race.”

It’s worth noting that Marko’s comment incorrectly categorised Perez’s nationality, as Mexico is located in North America, not South America.

Instead of issuing an immediate apology for his remarks, Marko defended himself, claiming that his words had been misunderstood. 

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In an interview with Austrian news outlet OE24, Marko stated, “It wasn’t meant that way. 

“I meant that a Mexican has a different mentality than a German or a Dutchman. 

“But who knows, maybe it’s (Checo’s mentality) controlled.”

Marko’s comments have raised concerns about the harmony within the Red Bull Racing team as they aim to make history in the 2023 Formula 1 season. 

Such remarks can have a divisive impact on team dynamics and the morale of the driver.

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Sergio Perez, who has previously addressed the issue of his nationality affecting perceptions of his performance, expressed his frustration. 

After his victory at the Singapore Grand Prix in the previous season, Perez said, “I knew I was going through a bit of a bad patch. 

“There’s been two races I haven’t been on the podium, but obviously the media makes a big thing, probably because I’m Mexican, and they start to make all these comparisons, [like] the biggest mistake Red Bull has made to bring me here.”