Verstappen threatens to quit if ‘glue’ Marko leaves

Sat, 9 March 2024, 07:00

Mar.9 (GMM) Max Verstappen says Dr Helmut Marko is the “glue” that keeps him at Red Bull.

As the Austrian-Thai energy drink company’s obvious power struggle plays out inside the Formula 1 paddock, the next explosive chapter is that Marko, 80, could be set to imminently depart.

That ties in perfectly with reports about a ‘Marko clause’ in Verstappen’s 2028 contract, with the triple world champion warning after securing pole in Saudi Arabia that if his mentor leaves, so will he.

“The team knows that he is an important component and how important he is for me,” Verstappen, 26, told Sky Italia late on Saturday.

“But not only that. Just look at everything he achieved with Dietrich Mateschitz, and how much more important he was after his passing. He’s the glue of the team – one of those people who keeps everyone together.

“The team knows what I think of him and how important his presence is,” the Dutch driver warned. When asked specifically what he’ll do if Marko is ousted, Verstappen answered: “It’s an understatement to say that it would be madness.”

Why would Marko leave? According to multiple sources and reports, Christian Horner instigated an internal investigation into who leaked the details of his affair with a female staffer to hundreds of F1 journalists – and suspects the culprit was Marko.

Marko is on the Austrian side of the Red Bull power struggle, while Horner is rumoured to be scheming to take full control of the brand’s premier F1 team in collaboration with Red Bull GmbH’s 51 percent owner from Thailand.

“This is a very, very big problem for them that goes beyond just the paddock,” former F1 driver Alex Wurz told ORF.

Marko is said to have enraged Horner at Jeddah by breaching a ban on speaking to the media about the saga, including a revelation that Honda – as well as Ford – have written letters of concern about the Horner affair.

Horner, who publicly denied any knowledge of Marko’s rumoured departure, reportedly responded by threatening Marko that he may not be welcome to accompany the team to the next race in Melbourne.

Marko said: “In the end it’s up to me to decide what to do, but the theoretical possibility (of leaving the team) exists. But this is a difficult question.

“I have another conversation with my superior tomorrow,” Marko told Austrian broadcaster ORF, referring to Red Bull co-CEO Oliver Mintzlaff, “and then we’ll see.

“But everything has to be right so that I want to continue working here. We want peace in the team.”

He also told Sky Deutschland: “We need clarification on the matter to prevent damage to the brand and the team. The important thing is that we don’t do anything that can cost Max the title.”

German broadcaster RTL says the next explosive phase in the saga could be legal action against Horner instigated by the female staffer. The report said Red Bull Racing has paid her a EUR 700,000 severance payment, boosted by Red Bull GmbH to a full million.

But former F1 driver Ralf Schumacher says there is a simpler solution.

“Christian Horner could solve this problem now,” he said. “He could resign.”

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