Ralf Schumacher has jumped to the defence of Red Bull’s embattled team advisor Dr Helmut Marko.
Marko recently found himself embroiled in a furore for suggesting that Sergio Perez’s Mexican heritage was the reason for his lack of focus when compared to Max Verstappen, who is Dutch.
The 80-year-old Marko faced backlash, with his comments being labelled as racist. He disclosed that he got a formal warning from the FIA.
“We’ve barely spoken to each other,” said former F1 racer Ralf Schumacher to formel1.de.
“But I’ve known him since I was around 16, 17, 18. What I can say for sure is, he’s not right-wing or anything like that. He’s definitely a person with a sharp edge.
“But in my view, his apology was entirely genuine,” added Schumacher. “Because I do know Helmut.
“I’m absolutely certain that his intentions were not racist.”
Some think that Austrian Marko is one of the toughest individuals in motorsports, but Schumacher, who is German, says the notion that he is also racist deeply troubles him.
“He’s concerned that people are viewing him in this light,” he stated. “Helmut is someone who has never intentionally hurt anyone.
“Occasionally, he makes off-the-cuff remarks that aren’t always pleasant for his drivers. He just enjoys comparing his drivers to great talents like Sebastian Vettel and Max Verstappen.
“But what’s bothersome is that people keep dwelling on this. Sergio accepted the apology, and so can we,” insisted Schumacher.
Meanwhile, Red Bull’s team principal Christian Horner defended the choice to release Marko’s apology through the Servus TV broadcaster rather than via Red Bull Racing.
“Helmut is not on the payroll of Red Bull Racing,” Horner is cited by Osterreich newspaper. “He’s part of the Red Bull group.”
Simultaneously, Ralf Schumacher emphasised that the Perez incident underscores Red Bull’s need to settle its driver roster as soon as possible.
Despite the critique from Red Bull this season, Perez is solidly under contract until 2024.
“As far as I’m concerned, the Perez matter should be put to rest by season’s end,” Schumacher pointed out. “He ought to be fully aware of that.
“Now that Liam Lawson is performing so well, Marko is in a fortunate position. But for me, Daniel Ricciardo still seems the most straightforward and logical option.”