Lewis Hamilton has described comments made by Red Bull motorsport advisor Helmut Marko about Mexican driver Sergio Pérez as “completely unacceptable.”
After this month’s Italian Grand Prix, Marko attributed Pérez’s form to his ethnicity, telling ServusTV: “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],” according to Reuters.
The 80-year-old Austrian later apologized for his remarks, and Pérez, speaking ahead of this weekend’s Singapore Grand Prix, said that he had also received a personal apology.
“It’s completely unacceptable what he said,” Mercedes driver Hamilton, who has long spoken out against racial discrimination in Formula One, told Sky Sports when asked about Marko’s comments.
“Whilst we say there’s no room for any type of discrimination within this sport … to have leaders and people in his position making comments like this is not good for us moving forwards.
“I think it just highlights firstly the work that still needs to be done. There are a lot of people in the background that really are trying to combat these sorts of things but it’s hard to manoeuvre when you have people that are at the top that have those sorts of mindsets that just stop us from progressing.”
In a public apology issued via ServusTV, Marko said that he wants “to make it absolutely clear that I do not believe that we can generalise about the people from any country, any race, any ethnicity.”
He added: “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.”
Pérez, currently second behind teammate Verstappen in this season’s driver standings, said that receiving a personal apology from Marko was “more important than anything else.”
He told reporters: “I know him and I know that he doesn’t mean it that way as well, and that to me is what matters. When you have a personal relationship with someone, I think it’s a feeling you’re going to have.”
Verstappen is aiming to win a record-extending 11th consecutive race in Singapore on Sunday, though he said this week that he doesn’t think Red Bull is as competitive on street circuits compared to other tracks.
“The street circuits are a little bit tougher for our car,” he said. “I still think that we can do a good job but it will be very tight.”
Qualifying gets underway at 9 p.m. local time (9 a.m. Eastern Time) on Saturday and the race itself begins at 8 p.m. local time (8 a.m. ET) on Sunday.