A behind-the-scenes drama is still unfolding within Red Bull’s F1 program, starring Dr. Helmut Marko, the seasoned 80-year-old team consultant, whose future with the team hangs in a delicate balance as we move towards 2024.
Whispers of a power struggle have been echoing through the team’s corridors for some time, with Marko, a pivotal figure, supposedly in a tug-of-war with team boss Christian Horner. The plot thickened recently when Max Verstappen, Marko’s ultra-successful protege, stepped into the fray, lending his voice in support of his Austrian mentor. Verstappen emphatically states, “Red Bull should not want to continue without Helmut. For me, that has to do with respect and loyalty. That’s number one for me. I will not let him fall.”
Yet, in a recent interview with Osterreich newspaper, Marko himself cast a shadow of doubt over his continued presence at every race in the long 24-race calendar for the next year. When pressed about his plans for 2024, he responds, “After the season there will be a general discussion about what I do. It’s common for people to discuss what’s going to happen in the future after a season. That’s how it’s always been.”
The intrigue deepens with reports suggesting a less than harmonious relationship between Marko and key figures in Red Bull’s hierarchy, including the late founder Dietrich Mateschitz’s son Mark and the new CEO Oliver Mintzlaff. Despite these rumored rifts, Marko’s spirit remains unbroken as he asserts his vitality, “I have the strength to do that. In Las Vegas, I was in surprisingly good shape and better than most.”
Looking ahead, Marko remains optimistic about Red Bull’s competitive edge, fueled by Verstappen’s prowess. He expresses confidence in Verstappen’s pursuit of racing legends, saying, “I trust Max for that. It is highly likely that he will still win world championships. I just don’t think it’s possible that we repeat a season like this one with 21 wins in 22 races.” However, he remains skeptical about the team’s chances of winning all 24 races next year, commenting, “It’s illusory that we could do that. But first let’s see whether all 24 races can actually be run. Remember, Imola was cancelled this year due to the natural disaster. And when I look at how things are going in the world, you have to be very optimistic to think that everything can go ahead as planned.”
As the 2023 season wraps up, Marko expects the rumors about Sergio Perez’s departure to subside. He acknowledges the team’s strengths, particularly highlighting the ‘Max Verstappen factor’, and sympathizes with Perez, who is overshadowed by a teammate he describes as a “talent of the century.”
“Sergio Perez has been talked badly about, even though he is a top driver. He’s just unlucky that he has a talent of the century as a teammate,” he said.