Toto Wolff missed the Formula One Japanese and Qatar GR and Prix following knee surgery and while the cat was away, the mice certainly tried to play. Lewis Hamilton and George Russell were ‘out of control’ – with each trying to gain an advantage over the other from the temporary team management.
The Red Bull group is a similar collective and while Dietrich Mateschitz was alive, the various factions remained in control. Yet since the death of the founder of the global brand tensions have been rising.
Red Bull power struggle
Brazilian publication Globo reports matters reaching “boiling point” and also that the Thai founding shareholder has been more active since the passing of Dieter.
This has reportedly spilled out into the F1 operations and has already created animosity between Christian Horner and Dr. Helmet Marko – the group consultant and former right hand man of Mateschitz.
When the team decided to allow Pierre Gasly to leave and join Alpine to replace Fernando Alonso, there was a difference of opinion on who should replace the Frenchman. Gasly had been previously promoted alongside Verstappen, but failed to make an impression and was merely serving time out at the AlphaTauri team.
Dr. Marko insisted the team recruit the impressive debutant Nyck de Vries, who had stepped in last minute for the unwell Alex Albon in Monza 2022, out qualified his team mate and scored points on debut.
Marko pushes for De Vries
The added bonus for Marko was the political element of this decision. De Vries had been dumped by Mercedes from the role of reserve driver and so should he come good driving within the Red Bull family, it wood be one in the eye for Toto and the rest of the ‘arch enemy.’
Marko talked up De Vries before he even sat in the AlphaTauri car suggesting he would quickly become the natural team leader – even ahead of Yuki Tsunoda – who was now in his third year in Formula One.
Whilst De Vries failed to achieve the aspirations set by Marko, his ten races for AT were not unusual for a rookie and it was a surprise he was ditched so early in the 2023 season.
Then the truth came to the fore. Speaking to the Inside Line F1 podcast, Marko revealed there had been a disagreement over the recruitment of Nyck De Vries.
Perez problem needs resolving
“Not often but sometimes we do. The last one I would say Nyck De Vries and at the moment it looks like he [Horner] was right. I mean basically it’s Alpha Tauri so it’s not completely but as a big family I’d say we at least get opinions. He was not a fan of Nyck De Vries.”
Presumably with one eye on the Sergio Perez calamity that was unfolding , Horner decided enough was enough and he needed to get Daniel Ricciardo back in an F1 seat in preparation for him ultimately replacing Checo.
Of course when Didi Mateschitz was alive, Marko was seen as the head of the Red Bull junior driver recruitment programme. He did after all find Sebastian Vettel and Max Verstappen both of whom became multiple world champions.
Yet with tensions growing, “the fight for power has increased” in recent times in Red Bull.
Horner recruits AlphaTauri CEO
Dr. Marko has been heavily critical of Sergio Perez, suggesting recently he needs to move on to another team to regain his confidence. Further, the 80 year old Austrian insulted Checo with an intended racial slur, though amusingly he referred to the Mexican as possessing South American traits when in fact Mexico is not within South America.
Horner is now trying to gain complete control of the Red Bull F1 operations according to Brazil’s Globo publication which suggests his influence over AlphaTauri has also increased in re4cent times.
The Red Bull team principal was influential in prsing away from the FIA, AlphaTauri’s new CEO – Peter Bayer as Marko’s old friend Franz Tost is being replaced as team principal.
The latest row between Horner and Marko was over Yuki Tsunoda. Horner wanted Red Bull to ditch the Japanese driver despite the $10m they are paid by Honda.
New Tsunoda row
Helmut Marko disagreed and pressed for the driver to be retained to avoid any potential friction with Honda who control the mapping and configurations of the power units.
The future of the former Austrian racing driver will be decided at the upcoming board meeting and another opponent of Marko will be present to vote on the issue.
Oliver Mintzlaff, currently responsible for the brand’s sports management, and who joined the group after the death of Dietrich Mateschitz, is believed to think Marko is a liability to the brands global appeal and intends to see him retire from front line activitiy.
Tost and Marko to retire
It could be the racing future for Dr. Marko rests on the shoulders of Christian Horner. Whilst he may not recommend him being banished into outer darkness, a big thank you and a swift retirement alongside Franz Tost is probably the outcome most likely to occur.
Even the most dominant team in Formula One history clearly does not always have its garden smelling of roses.
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