Formula One lost one of its most influential characters from the last two decades of its history. Dietrich Mateschitz co-owner of the Red Bull energy drinks empire passed away following qualifying at the US grand prix. The young driver programme sponsored for years by Mateschitz is responsible for 8 of the 22 drivers on the grid in 2022.
Of course, the controversial figure that is Helmut Marko runs the Red Bull young driver programme and was a long standing friend of Dietrich.
Red Bull management decided
The financial future of both Red Bull and Alpha Tauri was thrown into question with the death of the Red Bull billionaire, yet within two weeks a new board of directors was appointed.
Most significantly Oliver Mintzlaff was appointed as CEO. He has a strong sporting background with his previous role as chairman of RB Leipzig. Prior to running the German Red Bull sponsored football team he controlled all of Red Bull’s global football commitments and previously had a career as a long-distance runner.
Christian Horner confirmed that at the operational level little will change for Red Bull and Alpha Tauri.
“The future is set,” he said. “He’s put in place a very strong foundation for the future. And with, in 2026, Red Bull becoming a power unit manufacturer, that was the missing piece of our jigsaw, and he had the vision to enable that to happen.
“And just as we’ve done with the chassis, we will take that same spirit, his spirit, into the future engine company.
Questions over Marko’s future
Yet despite the message of continuity from Horner, the future of Helmut Marko has been recently questioned. Marko now reveals he believes he has “fulfilled” his mission and could leave Red Bull and F1 at any time.
“I fulfilled my task because of my connection to Dietrich Mateschitz, a visionary who understood everything in the big picture,” Marko explained to Laola1.
“If the atmosphere doesn’t suit me anymore, then it won’t be an issue for me.
Helmut reveals he is free to leave anytime now though adds, “but the fire [for motorsport] still burns.”
“I generally don’t worry about that. I’m independent, so I can leave the team at any time.”
This is a bombshell admission from the Red bull consultant given he’s never previously suggested he could walk away from his role.
Big birthday looms for Helmut
Marko appears generally happy with the transfer of governance since the death of his Austrian friend.
“There is a general commitment from both shareholders [Mateschitz’s son Mark and the Thai owners of Red Bull] that from a marketing point of view, Formula 1 is the strongest instrument,” he explained.
“That is not being questioned.
“We’ve had talks with the shareholders, and [I’ll speak with Oliver] Mintzlaff – [one of the new CEOs] soon.”
Born during WWII Helmut Marko will be 80 at his next birthday and these big birthday milestones are often the instigation of change as has been rumoured in the F1 paddock for a few weeks now.
Marko got involved with the recent political dispute between Verstappen his protege and Sergio Perez. His comments following the result in Abu Dhabi made it crystal clear he backed Verstappen.
“It was a shame with Perez, but if now the question of swapping places in Brazil comes up it would have been useless.”
Marko believes Perez was the master of his own downfall in the race for P2 in the drivers’ championship.
”We have to be satisfied. We actually did everything right in terms of strategy too. It was very tight in the end, but Perez made a mistake in the first phase of the race, he pushed too hard with his tyres and we had to pit him earlier than planned.”
Marko one last task
Helmut Marko is also believed to have been influential in the return to Red Bull of Daniel Ricciardo. The Australian was heavily linked with a reserve driver role at Mercedes in September, though finally announced this week he will take up that role back at his old team Red Bull Racing.
Ricciardo is another of Marko’s portage’s and it may be the Austrian has one last task before he retires; “to get the band back together”.
Ricciardo has 8 GP wins to Sergio’s 4 and there is growing support for the idea that Ricciardo would make a better team mate for Verstappen than the Mexican.
"I think that will be the highly likely place for me, Red Bull"
Looks like we will be seeing Daniel Ricciardo back next year around the paddock 😀 pic.twitter.com/t6YWneafxI
— Sky Sports F1 (@SkySportsF1) November 20, 2022