Sergio Perez says he accepted Helmut Marko’s apology for claiming he cannot focus as well as rivals from European countries.Max Verstappen or Sebastian Vettel. Four days later Marko issued an apology for his “offensive remark”.
Perez said he has spoken to Marko since then and accepted his apology. “I had a private conversation with him,” said Perez. “He did apologise and that, to me, was the main thing. And, basically, we move on.
“I have a personal relationship with him and I think you can always have those feelings when you see that sort of stuff knowing the person helps a lot because I know he doesn’t mean it that way. And I took his apology because I know Helmut from the personal relationship that he doesn’t mean it that way.”
The Red Bull driver said he understood why Marko’s comments had prompted the criticism that greeted them.
“Obviously those comments, when you read them in isolation, can be very disrespectful. But like I say, knowing Helmut, having that personal relationship for me helped me a lot to understand him.
“And like I say he gave me a personal apology. So it’s like everything when you have a personal relationship, it’s a lot more important, the personal feeling, than the public feeling.”
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Marko has a reputation for never sparing his drivers’ blushes with his feedback. “He will tell you what he thinks,” said Perez. “I think something that we can appreciate from Helmut is that he’s very transparent – to the media, to the world in general and also to the drivers. It’s just how he is.”
Perez said he was “not at all” offended by Marko’s remarks. “Knowing Helmut, like I say, I have a personal relationship with him, I know he doesn’t mean it that bad way and I didn’t get offended at all, personally.
“If those comments were on a different perspective or so on I would have taken them differently. But to me it’s just how things are and I didn’t [take] them personally.”
However Lewis Hamilton, who has consistently spoken up about the need to improve diversity in Formula 1, was appalled by Marko’s comments.
“It’s completely unacceptable what he said,” the Mercedes driver told Sky. “Whilst we say there’s no room for any type of discrimination within the sport – [and] there should be no room for it – 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 […] if there are people in the top that have those sort of mindsets. That just stops us from progressing.”
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He added he was “not surprised, to be honest” by Marko’s remarks and said further action should have been taken in response to them. “This is not something that you just apologise [for] and it’s all okay,” said Hamilton. “I think there needs to be more done.”
Hamilton pointed out that other teams in similar situations have distanced themselves from discriminatory remarks. “At least they put out a quote and say they don’t support that sort of thing,” he said. “It is interesting that they haven’t done so for this one.
“But it’s not my team and it’s not how we move as a team. I think it just shows how important it is that we continue to do the work that I’m trying to do with my team and with the sport. We still have a lot of work to do moving forwards to make sure that this is a more inclusive environment.”
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