Michael Schumacher
File photo of Schumacher looking on during the qualifying session for the Italian F1 Grand Prix race at the Monza racetrack in Monza Reuters / Alessandro Bianchi

A Spanish journalist has been forced to issue a lengthy apology after he managed to offend a large number of Formula 1 fans by making a joke mentioning Michael Schumacher during the coverage of last weekend's Japanese Grand Prix.

DAZN pundit Antonio Lobato was enjoying some on-air banter with fellow TV hosts Noemi de Miguel, Pedro de la Rosa and Toni Cuquerella when the racing legend's name was mentioned in what many viewers saw as a distasteful and disgusting joke.

Red Bull Racing driver Max Verstappen dominated the Japanese Grand Prix on Sunday, and is on course for a third consecutive F1 Drivers' World Championship title. He will likely be crowned by the next race in Qatar, but his latest victory sealed the Constructors' Championship title for Red Bull even if his teammate Sergio Perez failed to score any points.

Such was the dominance of Verstappen and Red Bull this season that the pundits could not help but make comparisons against other record holders in the sport. They were having a laugh about the number of titles that have been won by the team when one of the hosts mentioned Red Bull Chief Technology Officer Adrian Newey, who has won eleven Constructors' Championships with three different F1 teams. He also helped seven different drivers win twelve Drivers' Championships while behind the wheel of his cars.

One of the hosts said: "Let Adrian Newey (Red Bull engineer) be shaking because Antonio Lobato is coming."

Unfortunately, Lobato did not think his answer through and responded: "Let Michael be shaking! Well... not Michael, he cannot shake."

Everyone in the panel laughed at the joke, but viewers were not pleased. The video of the clip has since gone viral on social media, with racing fans from around the world expressing their disdain. The moment could still be seen on Twitter (now X).

Needless to say, Lobato soon found himself in hot water, with some racing fans even calling for his dismissal from the DAZN programme.

It is clear that the "joke" was seen by many as blatantly disrespectful to Schumacher himself and to his family. The seven-time world champion is also one of the most well-loved figures in the sport, and his fan base remains huge despite the fact that it has been more than ten years since he retired. It has now also been almost ten years since he suffered a devastating ski accident that left him in a medically-induced coma for six months from December 2013 to June 2024.

The incident took place in the slopes of the French Alps, and Schumacher was later moved back to the family home in Switzerland to receive long-term treatment. He has not been seen in public since, and updates about his condition are few and far between. No one really knows the real status of his health save for his immediate family and a few close friends. However, it is clear that his mobility is limited, hence making the "joke" extremely triggering.

Lobato issues a lengthy apology

In the aftermath of the backlash surrounding the incident, Lobato, a veteran F1 journalist, has taken to social media to share a five-minute video apology.

While trying to explain his thought process in the moment, Lobato said: "I made a mistake without any bad intentions. It was simply a mistake of pure clumsiness, of pure inability to express myself correctly, maybe because of too many hours up, jetlag in Madrid, or whatever – which is not an excuse for those of you who didn't see it.

"What happened is that I went too far and made an expression that is not good, it is not accurate, it is not fine. I didn't mean to make a joke. I didn't mean to make fun of Michael Schumacher, no."

He then went on to say that he immediately knew that he made a mistake as soon as the words came out of his mouth. He said: "For the record, the first one who was f**ked up when I said that sentence was me. I said how can you say that, man, it's going to be misinterpreted. That's not what you meant. You meant to say something else and it didn't come out right."

He admitted that he can do nothing else but to apologise sincerely to everyone who was offended by his comment.

"It was not my intention to say it to laugh, nor to make any kind of joke with Michael, whom I knew, whom I admire, and whom I think is a reference and who I think was quite unlucky," he concluded.