Red Bull motorsport adviser Helmut Marko has apologised for blaming Sergio Perez’s inconsistent form this season on his ethnicity.
The 80-year-old is an influential figure, who effectively chooses the drivers for both the drinks company’s teams.
Marko said in a statement: “I would like to apologise for my offensive remark.
“I want to make it absolutely clear that I do not believe that we can generalise about the people from any country, any race, any ethnicity.”
The Austrian, who issued his statement via Red Bull’s Servus TV website, added: “I was trying to make a point that Checo’s form has fluctuated this year, but it was wrong to attribute this to his cultural heritage.”
Marko made his original comments on a Servus TV programme following last weekend’s Italian Grand Prix.
Referring to Perez’s up-and-down season, Marko said: “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].”
It is not the first time Marko has referred to Perez as South American, even though he is from Mexico which is geographically in North America.
An attempt to clarify the statement earlier on Friday only dug Marko into a deeper hole.
The Austrian website www.oe24.at reported him as saying: “It wasn’t meant that way. I meant that a Mexican has a different mentality than a German or a Dutchman. But who knows, maybe it’s controlled.”
Perez and Verstappen shared two wins each in the first four races of the season, after which Perez was talking about challenging for the world title.
But Perez’s hopes collapsed with a run in which he failed to qualify in the top 10 for five consecutive races despite the Red Bull being the fastest car in the field.
Verstappen has won every grand prix since the fifth race of the season in Miami and is on a record-beating run of 10 straight victories.
Marko is a former racing driver who was a close friend of the late Red Bull co-owner Dietrich Mateschitz, who died last October.
South America has produced four multiple world champions: five-time winner Juan Manuel Fangio, two-time champion Emerson Fittipaldi, and triple champions Nelson Piquet and Ayrton Senna.