Well, I go away for a week and it seems things get very strange as Dr. Helmut Marko has created a bot of a storm for comments he made about driver Sergio Perez. IT seems that Marko felt Perez’s lack of focus had something t do with where he is from…Mexico (although he said Sergio was South American and it can get confusing but there is North, Central and South America).
Helmut Marko’s original comment:
“Let’s remember that he is South American, and so he is not as focused as Max Verstappen or Sebastian Vettel was.
“But racing is his forte, and he had a very good race. Overtaking three drivers, in George Russell and the Ferraris, was not easy.”
Red Bull has since put pressure on Marko to issue and apology, which he did, and I think that’s actually a large step internally toward the changing landscape of the team and its structure.
Helmut Marko issued a formal apology:
“Referring to my interview in the Sport und Talk program on ServusTV on Monday September 4th, I would like to make it clear that I am firmly convinced that you cannot generalize about people, regardless of their culture, nationality or ethnic origin.
“I wanted to underline that, although Checo had a great race at Monza, Checo’s performance has fluctuated greatly this year. It was wrong to make a reference to his origins. I would like to sincerely apologize for that.
“Concerning my remark about Sergio Perez, ServusTV Sport and Talk, Monday September 4: I would like to apologise for my offensive remark and want to make it absolutely clear that I do not believe that we can generalise about the people from any country, any race, any ethnicity.
“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.”
I always found it interesting that he is an advisor to the team and not an employee. It was a role that was a bit confusing like Niki Lauda who was a non-executive chairman for Mercedes. That role typically isn’t involved in the day-to-day running of the team but manages the board. It got confusing as he was at every race and involved, seemingly, in the daily operation as well.
Helmut Marko, by contrast, is an advisor and was really working as a talent scout for Red Bull and Alpha Tauri. His ties to former owner Dietrich Mateschitz was the reason for his involvement but I suspect this recent blowup may have some folks inside Red Bull considering that relationship. To be honest, I suspect they were already considering things like this now that Dietrich has passed.
Despite his recent apology, the simple fact is, either Sergio is focused or he’s not, it has nothing to do with where he is from, his race or his culture. For me, this is what happens with collective herd mentality versus treating everyone as individuals.
You’d be hard pressed to make a case for Marko’s comments regarding South Americans when one of, if not the, greatest F1 driver was Ayrton Senna and no one questioned his “focus” due to his nationality. Juan Manuel Fangio comes to mind as another of the sport’s all-time greats and there are a host of massively talented Brazilians in F1 and Indycar as well as Mexicans in the form of the Rodriguez brothers.
The reality is, today’s need to lump everyone into a group that can then be described in either positive or pejorative commentary can lead to very base behavior. Clearly Marko’s perceptions of South Americans, Mexican or otherwise, is wrong as evidenced by a list of outstanding drivers who were/are immensely focused and successful. I have no idea what Helmut’s past with drivers from South America is but surely those are individual incidents and not indicative of the entirety.
I also think comments about a driver’s focus or lack thereof, are conversations best kept between the driver and the team. If you want to apply pressure to Sergio publicly, stating that he has struggled with focus is enough…the rest is reckless and inappropriate.