Max Verstappen threatens to quit Red Bull with Helmut Marko at risk of suspension

The saga involving the world champions took another twist late on Friday when it emerged Marko could be suspended

Kieran Jackson
Formula 1 Correspondent
Saturday 09 March 2024 09:21 GMT
Christian Horner and Max Verstappen’s father have ‘heated’ exchange at Bahrain GP

Max Verstappen has sensationally threatened to quit Red Bull if Helmut Marko – who is at risk of suspension – is forced out of the team.

In another twist to the saga engulfing F1’s most dominant team, long-term motorsport adviser Marko could be suspended, according to reports.

Red Bull are undertaking a new investigation surrounding the various media leaks in the last month or so, including the leak of WhatsApp messages allegedly between Christian Horner and his female colleague, some of a sexually suggestive nature.

The BBC goes further, saying that Red Bull do indeed intend to suspend the 80-year-old, who is a close ally of Max and his father Jos.

And three-time world champion Verstappen, mere minutes after taking pole in Saudi Arabia, insisted his future at the team could depend on Marko’s position.

“If such an important pillar falls away, it is not good for my situation and I have told the team that,” Verstappen said.

“He is an important part in my decision-making for the future. For me, Helmut has to stay. I have a lot of respect for him, and what we have achieved together. It goes very far.

"He has built this team together with Dietrich [Mateschitz] from day one. And he’s always been very loyal to the team, to everyone within the team, to make sure that everyone would keep their positions already from back in the day.

"I think it’s also very important, of course, that you give the man a lot of respect for what he has done. And that comes back also to loyalty, you know, and integrity. So, yeah, for sure, it’s important that he stays part of the team, also for me."

Max Verstappen says he could quit Red Bull if Helmut Marko leaves the team (Getty Images)

When asked if he could be suspended, Marko told Austrian broadcaster ORF on Friday: “I’ll put it this way, it’s difficult to judge, or let’s put it this way, ultimately, I’ll decide for myself what I do. The theoretical possibility always exists.”

As well as saying he was unsure if he’ll be at the next race in Australia, the 80-year-old added: “I think it’s such a complex issue. Again, we want peace in the team. This world championship will be difficult enough with 24 races and we have to concentrate on that.”

The latest update comes after the female colleague who accused Horner of “inappropriate behaviour” – with the team principal cleared after an internal investigation – was suspended by Red Bull Racing on full pay.

Horner himself implored the world to “draw a line” under the situation, despite tension between Verstappen’s father Jos and the F1 boss emerging in Bahrain last weekend.

The divide within Red Bull – split into two camps consisting of Marko and the Verstappens against Horner and the Thai majority owner Chaleo Yoovidhya – is overshadowing the most successful period in the team’s history.

Verstappen will start Saturday’s Saudi Arabian Grand Prix on pole, with team-mate Sergio Perez third and Ferrari’s Charles Leclerc second.

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