Helmut Marko incorrectly referred to Formula 1 driver Sergio Perez as “South American” when discussing his recent struggles.
Since the first few races of the 2023 Formula 1 season, Red Bull’s Sergio Perez has struggled and largely failed to keep up with the pace of teammate and two-time reigning world champion Max Verstappen, whose 10 straight victories set a new all-time record.
Perez opened up the year with two wins in four races, but his best finishes in the 10 races since then are a trio of runner-up results, leaving him well out of the points lead with eight races remaining on the 22-race schedule.
There have been rumors about the 33-year-old being released by Red Bull after the 2023 season, even though he signed a deal last spring to remain with the team through 2024, and Red Bull advisor Helmut Marko has offered his honest criticism of Perez on more than one occasion.
Unfortunately, Marko recently cited Perez’s cultural heritage as an apparent reason for his struggles throughout the 2023 Formula 1 season.
"“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].”"
Naturally, Marko’s decision to make this reference and use it in a way that made it seem like it is part of the reason for Perez’s struggles drew criticism.
But what’s even more bizarre about the offensive remark is that Perez isn’t even South American. Mexico is geographically located in North America, and he is from Guadalajara. The entire country is located in the Northern Hemisphere, north of the equator.
As for the statement itself, Marko did apologize, and Perez accepted his apology. Perez even admitted that he was never offended by the remark, as unlike everybody who immediately took to social media to accuse Marko of being “racist”, Perez has a personal relationship with Marko and knows his intention was not to diss his ethnicity.
That said, he also understood that the comment could be perceived by South Americans (or Mexicans — or any North Americans) as offensive, given its surface appearance as a culturally disparaging remark.
As for Perez’s future with Red Bull, there is really no reason for the team to release him early. He is still the only race winner aside from Verstappen this year, and he is still as high as he can possibly be in the standings without being ahead of teammate, opening up the possibility of Red Bull’s first ever 1-2 finish in the world championship.