Singapore Grand Prix: Lewis Hamilton says F1 needs to do more to fight discrimination

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Helmut Marko chats to Sergio Perez in the Red Bull garage
Red Bull motorsport adviser Helmut Marko (left) apologised for his remarks about Sergio Perez (right) last week

Lewis Hamilton says Formula 1 needs to do more to fight discrimination in the wake of offensive comments by Red Bull boss Helmut Marko.

The 80-year-old apologised last week after blaming Sergio Perez’s inconsistent form for Red Bull this year on his ethnicity.

Hamilton described Marko’s remarks as “completely unacceptable” but said that he was “not surprised” to hear them.

He added it was “not something you just apologise [for] and it’s all OK”.

“I think there needs to be more done,” the seven-time world champion said.

“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 stop us from progressing.”

Hamilton, who was talking to Sky Sports, added: “While we say there is no room for any type of discrimination within this 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.

“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 forward to make sure that this is a more inclusive environment.”

Perez said that in addition to Marko’s public apology, the Austrian had also apologised to him in private.

“Basically, we move on,” the Mexican said. “I have a personal relationship with him.

“Obviously, those comments, when you read them in isolation, can be very disrespectful. But knowing Helmut, having that personal relationship, for me helped me a lot to understand him.

“I know he doesn’t mean it that way, and I didn’t get offended at all, personally.”

Red Bull said they “acknowledge and support the apology made by Dr Marko. He has also apologised privately to Checo.”

Marko is Red Bull’s motorsport adviser, who effectively decides the driver line-ups for the drinks company’s two teams. He is answerable only to Red Bull headquarters in Austria, and is not employed directly by the F1 team.

Red Bull form ‘exceptional’

Hamilton said that he “remains hopeful” that he and Mercedes can enjoy some success this year despite Red Bull dominating the season so far and winning every race.

Perez’s team-mate Max Verstappen is looking to extend at this weekend’s Singapore Grand Prix a record-breaking run of 10 consecutive victories as he closes on a third world title in a row.

Hamilton said: “I was asked a question earlier, would I rather take Max out of the equation or take [Red Bull design chief] Adrian Newey out of the equation? Neither. We just have to level up and do a better job.

“They have done an exceptional job. You can’t fault them for the amazing work they are collectively doing and have done.

“I just want to level up all of us and so but there is a lot of opportunity in these next eight races, just trying to make sure we are prepared to be there if something does happen to be coming our way. We remain hopeful for that.”

Hamilton said he hoped the Singapore track would play more to the strengths of the Mercedes after a disappointing weekend at the last race in Italy.

Verstappen shrugs off Wolff remarks

Max Verstappen holds up both his hands to show 10 digits after winning the Italian Grand Prix
Max Verstappen surpassed Sebastian Vettel’s 2013 record of nine consecutive F1 victories when he took his 10th straight win at the Italian Grand Prix two weeks ago

For his part, Verstappen said he was “not disappointed” by comments from Mercedes team principal Toto Wolff after Italy in which he said Verstappen’s win record was “completely irrelevant”.

Wolff added that the record “shows a great driver in a great car competing at an extremely high level” and soon afterwards said: “By the way, that record, I would think it’s a good one, because it’s perfection.”

Verstappen said that Wolff was probably upset at the time he made the comments because Mercedes had had a tough race in Monza, and added: “You should be able to appreciate when a team is doing really well.”

The Dutchman said he believed Red Bull would not have as big an advantage at Singapore than at other tracks this year.

Verstappen said: “We just are not as comparative as at other tracks – the street circuits are a little bit tougher for our car. I still think we can do a good job but it will be very tight.”

The Singapore track has been modified this year as a result of infrastructure works in the city, removing four corners from the last sector of the lap and replacing them with a straight.

The changes are expected to lower lap times by about nine or 10 seconds and mean the race has been lengthened by a lap to 62 laps.

Hamilton’s team-mate George Russell said: “I think it will make the racing a little more exciting. Singapore is a great circuit to drive but it’s a little bit challenging to race on and historically it has only really been Turn Five which has been an overtaking opportunity, whereas I hope maybe into the new Turn 16 will be another chance.

“It will make it slightly easier physically for us because it was the longest race of the season, so [it will be] a bit shorter. Less fun in qualifying but should be better in the race.”

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