Perez drops sponsor after border wall tweet
Esteban Ocon to join Force India in 2017
US team signs Magnussen
Formula One driver Sergio Perez has dropped one of his sponsors for “making fun” of Mexico on Twitter.
Perez, born in Guadalajara, reacted after sunglasses company Hawkers posted a tongue-in-cheek tweet suggesting Mexicans buy a pair of shades to hide their tears when President-elect Donald Trump’s border wall is constructed.
The Force India driver, popularly known as “Checo,” was not amused.
“What a bad comment, today I end my relationship with @HawkersMX. I won’t let anyone make fun of my country! #MexicoUnited,” he tweeted.
Hawkers subsequently deleted the offending tweet and released a video in which co-founder David Moreno apologized for the company’s “serious error.”
Perez only recently partnered with the brand, which had already started production on 20,000 pairs of sunglasses bearing his name, according to Autosport.com.
After third-place finishes in Monaco and Baku this season, Perez sits seventh in the driver standings going into this weekend’s Brazilian Grand Prix.
Speaking ahead of Sunday’s race in Sao Paulo, the former McLaren and Sauber racer insisted he wouldn’t be going back on his decision.
“I have decided to split with the brand because I’m not in favor at all of those comments. I didn’t find it funny at all,” the 26-year-old told reporters.
“They are very sorry and I am very sorry, too. I know the owners and they have done incredibly well and the relationship was going to be very successful.
“But my country and people come first, and I want to support them and won’t let anyone make fun of my country.
“It’s a shame the brand pays for it because it’s a mistake from one person. I’m sure he regrets it now, but it’s how things are in life sometimes.”
Meanwhile, Force India has filled its second race seat for 2017, announcing that young French driver Esteban Ocon will replace Nico Hulkenberg, who is joining Renault.
The 20-year-old, who was a test driver for Force India last year, made his F1 debut for bottom team Manor Racing in August and has made seven race starts. He has signed a multi-year deal after impressing with “outstanding results” in the junior categories.
“I’m still relatively new to Formula One, but spending half a season at Manor Racing has given me some valuable experience and I feel ready for this new opportunity with Sahara Force India,” Ocon said.
“It’s something I’ve been working towards my whole life and I intend to grab this opportunity with both hands so that I can deliver the results the team expects from me.”
Perez’s fellow Mexican Esteban Gutierrez has lost his race seat at Haas F1, with the US team confirming Friday that Kevin Magnussen will join for next season.
The Dane will partner Romain Grosjean, who has scored all 29 of the rookie outfit’s points in 2016.
Magnussen left Renault after just one season, with the French team deciding this week to instead retain British driver Jolyon Palmer.
Manor Racing and Sauber are now the only teams yet to confirm their 2017 lineups.