Red Bull motorsports consultant Helmut Marko has apologized for racially insensitive comments he made about Formula One driver Sergio Perez. Following the Italian Grand Prix at Monza last weekend, Marko cited Perez's ethnicity as a reason for the driver's inconsistent performance in 2023, and he has since walked back those remarks.
During an appearance on Servus TV, Marko said that Perez was less "focused" than some other drivers because of his Mexican heritage.
"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]," Marko said, according to Reuters.
Marko's comments quickly garnered backlash, and he issued an apology on Friday. Marko said he did not intend to make any generalizations about drivers based on race or ethnicity.
"I would like to apologize for my offensive remark and want to make it absolutely clear that I do not believe that we can generalize about the people from any country, any race, any ethnicity," Marko said in a statement. "I was trying to make a point that Checo has fluctuated in his performance this year, but it was wrong to attribute this to his cultural heritage."
It should also be noted that Perez is from Mexico, which is not part of South America. On top of that, the continent has produced highly successful Formula One drivers like Juan Manuel Fangio, Carlos Reutemann, Juan Pablo Montoya, and many others.
To this point in the 2023 season, Perez has racked up two wins and eight podiums for Red Bull. He is currently in second place, behind only Red Bull teammate Max Verstappen, in the driver's championship standings with 219 points.