Marko ‘will continue’ at Red Bull – but there’s a big caveat

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Helmut Marko says he will continue with Red Bull but has urged “calm must be restored” to Formula 1’s turbulent world champion team – something that does not look easily achieved.

Red Bull’s latest crisis escalation came on Friday at the Saudi Arabian Grand Prix when it emerged a matter involving Marko could lead to him either being suspended or simply walking away from his significant role in the team.

It has been widely reported that company motorsport advisor Marko faced a probe by Red Bull GmbH in relation to leaked information – possibly to do with Christian Horner’s recent, high-profile investigation over alleged misconduct with a female member of staff, but also other topics.

Marko talks freely on and off the record to various people in F1 including the media, often to Red Bull’s irritation given he is not considered by Red Bull to be an official spokesperson, despite his status in the organisation.

An attempt to muzzle the long-time special adviser or even possibly suspend him, as he claimed on Friday, seemed to leave Marko weighing up whether it was worth continuing with Red Bull, assuming he was not forced out anyway.

That triggered emphatic vocal support from Red Bull’s world champion Max Verstappen, who is extremely close to Marko and warned that if Marko left it would have serious consequences for his own future.

On race day in Jeddah, Marko had talks with Red Bull executive Oliver Mintzlaff.

This ended with Marko declaring to Sky Germany that they had a “very good conversation”, and that he “will continue” in his role.

But Marko also insisted “calm must be restored”, and right now that is not guaranteed.

That means while Marko’s continuity at Red Bull staves off an immediate showdown over Verstappen’s future, for now it is papering over the cracks.

Red Bull is currently far from calm. While it has had the perfect start to the season on-track, off-track there is a war for control that risks pulling the team apart from the inside.

What started as Horner’s personal controversy has snowballed drastically since the allegations and a subsequent Red Bull investigation became public.

That matter escalated into one that Red Bull’s partners, F1 itself and the FIA were all demanding transparency over – even after the investigation ordered by Red Bull GmbH dismissed the grievance against Horner ahead of the season opener in Bahrain.

The crisis has since deepened, with more in-fighting, all against the backdrop of a wider tussle for control between Horner, Mintzlaff and Red Bull majority shareholder Chalerm Yoovidyah. 

Until lending Marko his support, Verstappen had avoided taking any sides among the warring factions. But the Verstappen camp clearly stands firmly alongside Marko, and the question is whether that puts them directly up against anybody else.

Marko’s situation is just the latest twist in a contorted internal situation at Red Bull, a messy affair that predates the specific Horner scandal.

The existing tensions between Marko and Mintzlaff were well known, but by the end of last year the relationship between Marko and Horner seemed to have broken down as well.

When Marko extended his Red Bull contract in early 2024, it was interpreted as a successful attempt to realign himself with Mintzlaff.

It might be that after their discussions in Jeddah, there really is no major grudge between Marko and Mintzlaff, and Horner vs Marko and Horner vs Mintzlaff are the real points of conflict.

It is believed that Horner wants Yoovidyah to back him as the single, senior spearhead of Red Bull’s motorsport activities, effectively sidelining Mintzlaff and Marko. In return Yoovidyah would ensure the Thai side of Red Bull is not frozen out as the company in Austria exerts more control.

Yoovidyah and Mintzlaff are due to meet in Dubai on Sunday. If Yoovidyah backs Horner as the majority shareholder then Mintzlaff may just have to fall in line.

Which brings us back to asking whether calm can really be restored if everyone remains in place, what happens to Marko in that case – and, as he made so painfully clear, how that impacts Verstappen too.

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