(Motorsport-Total.com) – A particularly brazen case of fake news on Wednesday afternoon in Formula 1 almost escalated the Cold War between Red Bull and Mercedes. Because six-time world champion Lewis Hamilton posted a post on his social media channels in which Helmut Marko was put in a crooked light in the course of the current BlackLivesMatter discussion. Completely wrong, as is now clear.
What happened? Hamilton had posted a story shortly before noon (CEST), in which he turned directly to Marko: “Helmut, it makes me sad that you consider the struggle of black and colored people for equality as a ‘distraction’. Honestly, it does it really hurt me. […]”And afterwards he put on:” Wake up. This sport has to change. “
With his statement, the Mercedes driver referred to alleged Marko statements, to which he was apparently made aware via the Internet. The Red Bull motorsport consultant is said to have told RTL that his driver Max Verstappen is concentrating entirely on winning in Spielberg, while Hamilton is distracted by the racism discussion.
It was initially unclear where the blog platform from which Marko’s statements were disseminated had the quotes. Our editorial team too. In fact, on June 5, RTL conducted several short video interviews with the 77-year-old. But none of them commented on Hamilton’s commitment to the BlackLivesMatter movement.
Why we didn’t report at first and now we do
Because Hamilton already provided the traffic of a lifetime for the fake news website (which is deliberately not mentioned here by name), our editorial team did not initially want to fuel the story by acknowledging the topic with a publication. However, due to numerous reader inquiries, we contacted the participants.
Marko reports on the phone that the “excitement” kept him busy for “four hours” on Wednesday. The matter started from his perspective with a call from Vicky Lloyd, Red Bull Racing’s press officer at Milton Keynes. “She asked me what I really said in the interview,” recalls Marko.
The Austrian, during the coronavirus pandemic doing a lot of work in the forest and happy that Formula 1 was about to start again, was completely perplexed about the allegations against him: “I didn’t know what she was talking about. Then it all started . I fell from all clouds. ” And: It was a “huge effort” to get the thing out of the world.
From then on, the phones glowed, “for me, Red Bull and RTL at the same time,” says Marko. RTL was asked to search the archives of what he really said during the interview, because: “I can’t remember every single interview I gave at some point,” said the Red Bull Motorsport consultant .
When it was clear that the platform in question had not only taken his quotes out of context or sloppily translated, but at first glance it seemed to be more or less fictitious, “Horner sent SMS to Hamilton,” says Marko. “Then he deleted his posting.”
Interesting: Marko has Hamilton’s email address …
Marko himself sent the Mercedes superstar an email a little later, “to which he also replied”. The Austrian does not want to talk about the content of the exchanged emails. Since he says that the matter has “pleased” as far as this is concerned, one can assume that Hamilton apologized to him.
The fact that Marko was put in the corner of racism for a few hours shows how dangerous the dynamics of the supposedly “social” networks can be. But he doesn’t blame Hamilton for this: “He is very emotionally involved. As a racing driver, he is not obliged to research whether this is true or not. So his reaction is understandable to me.”
Marko has less understanding for the platform that originally distributed the fake quotes: “We are now taking legal action against them,” he announces. “It was tedious. It wasn’t clear to me what you could do there and how quickly something could be done. You can take this as an example that an overly hysterical view of the whole thing is not beneficial.”
The operators of the platform have meanwhile taken the article in question offline and published an apology to Marko and Red Bull. When asked by ‘Motorsport-Total.com’, the operator explains: “It was an unfortunate mistake by one of our contributors. We sincerely apologize for the inconvenience.”
What happens if the fact check is left out
Upon our request, the platform clarifies: One of the hobby bloggers who normally publish there has discovered the alleged Marko quotes on at least two Twitter accounts (screenshots are available to our editors) – and did not further check whether they really did agree or not, but adopted without a check and published in an article.
“The tweets and even the Twitter accounts were deleted shortly after our article was published,” the operator claims. When legal action from Red Bull was threatened, the fake quotes were quickly deleted – before the topic could spread like wildfire to other semi-professional websites.
Most professional media platforms either did not report on the topic at all or provided factual information. “Thank God, most journalists research what is really going on,” says Marko. “RTL told me that they were bombarded with requests for four hours. And when it was clear that this was fake news, hardly anyone wrote anything about it.”
After the Shitstorm, Marko finds it “absurd” that he was insulted as a racist for hours. He makes it clear: “I am not a racist. We have employees from our team from I don’t know how many nations. That has always been the case in our junior program. And in my company I have employees from around 15 nationalities and X continents.”
The BlackLivesMatter movement and Hamilton’s commitment to it, he emphasizes, “are of course justified”. Criticizing that would never occur to him. What admittedly annoys Marko at times is exaggerated political correctness: “If you are no longer allowed to hang up certain works of art, I wonder if all of this does not sometimes overshoot the mark …”