Perez says he was “not at all” offended by Marko’s xenophobic comments about his F1 form fluctuation

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Sergio Perez is adamant that his “personal relationship” with the 77-year-old team advisor means he was “not at all” offended by his xenophobic comments when he linked Perez’s fluctuations in form to his nationality and culture, and said the Austrian “didn’t mean” it in an offensive way.

Photo Credits: Red Bull Content Pool

Marko’s comments were made on Red Bull-owned Austrian channel ServusTV after the 2023 Italian GP, and associated Perez’s fluctuations in form in qualifying this season to his “South American” nature – despite the fact that Mexico is in North America – and saying he is “not as focused” as former Red Bull champion Sebastian Vettel and his team-mate Max Verstappen.

The comments set off a mass of backlash on social media given the xenophobic and racist nature of the remarks, with Marko then issuing a public apology via the ServusTV website in which he admitted it was “wrong” to associate Perez’s qualifying results to his culture.

Speaking to the media for the first time since the controversy, Perez stated to selected outlets ahead of the Singapore GP that he talked privately with the 1971 Le Mans winner, and said that his “personal relationship” with the Austrian helps him to understand what Marko meant with such controversial comments:

“I had a private conversation with him. He did apologise and that to me was the main thing, and basically, we moved on,” he said. “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.

“I took his apology because I know he’s moved from the personal relationship that we have, but he didn’t mean it that way.

“Obviously those comments, when you read them in isolation, can be very disrespectful.

“But like I said, knowing Helmut, having that personal relationship for me, helped me a lot to understand him. Like I said, he gave me a personal apology. It’s like everything, when you have a personal relationship, it’s a lot more important the personal feeling than the public feeling.”

When asked to expand on their personal relationship during race weekends, Perez explained that the team advisor is “very transparent” with him and they are constantly in touch during the season:

“Yeah, we’ll always have a chat on track. We see each other pretty much every weekend so we do have a personal relationship.

“He will tell you what he thinks. I think something that we can appreciate from Helmut is that he’s very transparent to the media and to the world in general and also to the drivers, so it’s just how he is.”

The six-time F1 grand prix winner insisted he was “not at all” offended by Marko’s comments and highlighted how public perception can be very different to their one-on-one, private chats:

“Not at all, if I’m totally honest,” he said when asked if he was offended by Marko’s remarks. “Knowing Helmut, like I said, having a personal relationship with him, I know he doesn’t mean it that way and I didn’t get offended at all, personally.

“If I were to look at those comments [in isolation], I would feel [offended],” he admitted. “But knowing him, and because I have a personal relationship with him, it doesn’t sound [offensive] to me.

“To be honest, we have a personal relationship, so whatever I say to the media or he says to the media is different to the conversations we have.

“Anyway, we have a good relationship and I know that it’s not related to that side.

“I think we all make mistakes and what to me was the most important was that I took his personal apology.

“What happens afterwards on the media side or on the public eye, that’s not in my control. To me, the most important is the personal relationship.”