A blow by blow account of the behind the scenes punches landed this year between Christian Horner and Helmut Marko
Despite 2023 being the most successful Formula One season in Red Bull’s history there’s a power struggle taking place. Reports in Brazil media Globo report Christian Horner is looking to oust Dr. Helmet Marko from his somewhat mysterious role of ‘special advisor’ to the Red Bull Racing teams.
Marko joined the Red Bull Group and worked alongside owner Dietrich Mateschitz back in 1999 overseeing the Red Bull driver development programme pre-Formula One.
Marko best friends with Red Bull founder
Both he and Christian Horner joined have been with the F1 team since it was bought from Minardi in 2005. Being of a similar age and also from Austria, Marko explained his friendship with Mateschitz was similar to the one he shared with another Austrian, Niki Lauda.
The sad news of Mateschitz death came through almost a year ago when Formula One was racing in Austin Texas.
“I’m missing him [Mateschitz] a lot. This is the second heavy loss. The first was Niki Lauda, with whom I [was] friends and worked with for decades,” Marko told RTL at the time.
However, since the death of the Red Bull entrepreneur, there have been ructions behind the scenes without the father figure of Didi to referee disputes.
Political ground shifts at Red Bull
Former RB Leipzig chief executive Oliver Mintzlaff is now in charge of there corporate projects and investments side of the wider business, meaning he oversees all its sporting endeavours. That includes the F1 team – even though there are suggestions that he holds little personal passion for motorsport.
This appears to have bother Dr. Marko given comments he made to Speedweek, owned by the Red Bull Group. When asked how the new relationships were working out in March, Helmet was coy.
“We met twice. He got insights. It remains to be seen how far he will respond to our ideas. Red Bull Racing has always been very independent.”
Describing how things have changed since Mateschitz’s death, Marko added: “It’s no longer the case that I report by phone after every practice session and race. The direct, personal and friendly relationship is no longer there.
Horner against recruiting Nyck de Vries
“Didi was a visionary, had emotions. I don’t see that anymore. I am a free person I can stop at any time if I’m no longer happy. Wait and see how the future turns out.”
At the time this appeared to be an outburst from nowhere, but clearly tensions have been growing.
Marko insisted it was his role to appoint junior drivers and so Nyck de Vries was recruited to the AlphaTauri team. When the young Dutch driver was sacked after ten races this year, Marko admitted Christian Horner opposed the move, presumably he wanted to get Daniel Ricciardo back in a Red Bull car as soon as possible.
So Ricciardo did return as Horner had planned but only after sitting out of F1 racing for almost eight months.
Horner revises Red Bull junior driver programme
Marko and Horner again locked horns this autumn over whether Yuki Tsunoda should be retained. Horner believes he has not developed as he should over his three years in the sport, but Marko argued it was good to keep Honda happy add keep the Japanese driver.
Horner was influential in the restructuring of the failing AlphaTauri team, persuading Peter Bayer to join as CEO from his role with the FIA.
Bayer has since stated the Red Bull young driver programme in its current form – overseen by Dr. Marko – will be ditched as the team look to perform better and not be held back by inexperience. The team will now have at least one experienced driver alongside one who is learning his way in the sport.
The Red Bull boss distanced himself from recent comments made by Marko suggesting Sergio Perez was a product of his South American roots. The inference had racial undertones that the Mexican was lazy and the FIA issued the 80 year old Austrian with a reprimand.
Red Bull boss distances himself from Marko
When asked to comment, Horner replied: “he is not employed by the team – but the wider group.”
Dr. Marko has all but said since Qatar that Sergio Perez should leave Red Bull and join another team to regain his confidence. Yet Christian Horner talks of “putting his arm around the driver” and “helping him regain his confidence.”
TJ13 reported earlier this week that Brazilian publication Globo was claiming the power struggle at Red Bull is coming to a head and will be resolved at the upcoming board meeting.
“Horner has been trying to get rid of Marko for some time to control the group’s operation in Formula 1 as a whole,” the Brazilian newspaper wrote.
Horner cautioned over Verstappen relationship ship with Marko
However, the Red Bull boss has now received words of caution from ex-F1 racer Ralph Schumacher. Speaking to Sky Deutschland ahead of this weekends USA Grand Prix he said:
“Unrest leads to performance suffering. That’s why you should be very careful and think about what you have achieved together.
“Horner is well advised not to exert further pressure. That wouldn’t turn out well for him. The connection between Dr. Marko and Verstappen should not be underestimated. Dr. Marko promoted him very early and is always on him.
“You hear that Verstappen would not tolerate it, but could rather do without Horner.”
It has been THE DRIVER not just the car
Christian Horner is believed to have leveraged his relationship with Oliver Mintzlaff to force the discussion over whether the outspoken Austrian should be pensioned off.
However, it may be pertinent for the Red Bull’s F1 boss to consider the feelings of his star driver Max Verstappen – who has proven it is he who is the magic ingredient set to win many more races and titles for the team – and not as in days of old, just down to the superior nature of the car he drives.
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The resurgence of McLaren since round nine has been one of the most remarkable stories of 2023. From the point they bought their first major upgrade in Austria, they have scored more points than every other team besides Red Bull.
In fact over the past three Grand Prix McLaren have even outscored the world champions due to their driving pairing both scoring points heavily. Meanwhile Red Bull have suffered as…READ MORE ON THIS STORY