Max Verstappen casts doubt over his Red Bull future if Helmut Marko forced out

Max Verstappen has cast further doubt over his Red Bull future after suggesting that he will quit Formula One’s dominant team if motorsport adviser Helmut Marko is forced out.

The PA news agency understands 80-year-old Austrian Marko, an instrumental figure in Verstappen’s career, faces a Red Bull investigation following the probe into claims of “inappropriate behaviour” against Christian Horner.

Horner’s female accuser was suspended earlier this week as a direct result of Red Bull’s inquiry which exonerated the 50-year-old team principal.

Marko is employed by the F1 team’s parent company, Red Bull GmbH. Asked if he could be suspended following Saturday’s Saudi Arabian Grand Prix, he told Austrian broadcaster ORF: “Ultimately, I’ll decide for myself what I do. The theoretical possibility always exists.”

PA has approached Red Bull Racing for comment.

Red Bull’s three-time reigning world champion Verstappen, speaking after qualifying on pole for Saturday’s race in Jeddah, said: “I have a lot of respect for Helmut, and what we have achieved together.

“It goes very far. My loyalty to him is very big, and I have always expressed this to everyone within the team, everyone high up, that he is an important part in my decision-making for the future.

Red Bull Racing consultant Helmut Marko
Red Bull Racing consultant Helmut Marko (left) with team principle Christian Horner (David Davies/PA)

“It is very important that he stays. I feel like if such an important pillar falls away, and I have told the team this, that it is not good for my situation as well.

“Helmut built this team together with (Red Bull’s late owner and founder) Dietrich (Mateschitz) from day one, and he’s always been very loyal to the team.

“It is very important that you give the man a lot of respect for what he has done, and that comes back to loyalty and integrity, so it is important that he stays.”

Verstappen did not mention Horner’s name as he defended Marko.

Saudi Arabia F1 GP Auto Racing
Red Bull driver Max Verstappen is under contract until 2028 (Darko Bandic/AP)

Horner, team principal at Red Bull since 2005, said on Thursday he is certain Verstappen will see out his long-term contract with Red Bull, despite the ongoing controversy.

Verstappen’s father, Jos, claimed Red Bull will “explode” if Horner remained in his role.

Verstappen, whose deal runs until 2028, has been linked with a move to Mercedes to replace Lewis Hamilton next season. Hamilton said earlier this week that the 26-year-old Dutchman is on Mercedes’ “list”.