SEPTEMBER 21, 2023
Ralf defends Marko amid racism scandal
Ralf Schumacher has leapt to the defence of Red Bull's under-fire team advisor Dr Helmut Marko.
Marko recently found himself at the centre of a scandal after suggesting it was Sergio Perez's Mexican background that explained his lack of focus compared to Dutchman Max Verstappen.
80-year-old Marko's stance was denounced as racist, and he admitted he received a written warning from the FIA.
We've hardly exchanged a word with one another, former F1 driver Ralf Schumacher told formel1.de.
"But I've known him since I was 16, 17, 18. And I have to say, one thing he certainly isn't is right-wing or anything. Of course he's a person who does have a clear edge.
But I think we can forgive him and, for me, his apology was completely credible, Schumacher added. "Because I do know Helmut.
I am firmly convinced that what he said was not meant to be racist.
Some believe Austrian Marko is one of the hardest men in motor racing - but German Schumacher says the perception that he is also racist really bothers him.
He's worried about people thinking about him that way, he said. "Helmut is a man who has never harmed anyone.
"From time to time, he makes careless, thoughtless statements that are not always easy for his drivers to hear. He simply likes to compare his drivers with top guys like Sebastian Vettel and Max Verstappen.
But it's a big deal that everyone keeps talking about this for so long. Sergio accepted the apology and we can too, Schumacher insisted.
Meanwhile, Red Bull team boss Christian Horner defended the fact that Marko's apology was posted on his own behalf to the Servus TV broadcaster rather than by Red Bull Racing itself.
Helmut is not an employee of Red Bull Racing, Horner is quoted by Osterreich newspaper.
He is part of the Red Bull group.
Meanwhile, Ralf Schumacher said the Perez affair highlights the fact that Red Bull must resolve the wider issue of its driver lineup as soon as possible.
Perez, despite Red Bull's criticism this year, is firmly under contract for 2024.
The Perez chapter should be closed by the end of the season, as far as I'm concerned, said Schumacher. "He should know that very well for myself.
Marko is fortunate now that Liam Lawson is already doing so well. But for me, Daniel Ricciardo is still the easiest and the most logical choice.