Helmut Marko ready to help trigger huge Max Verstappen exit at Red Bull – report

Thomas Maher
Max Verstappen speaking with Christian Horner and Helmut Marko

Max Verstappen, Helmut Marko and Christian Horner talk.

The ‘Helmut Marko clause’ in Max Verstappen’s contract with Red Bull could be used as a tactic to leave the team, according to a report.

The ‘will he/won’t he’ question regarding the Dutch driver’s future at Red Bull has dominated driver market speculation recently, and Helmut Marko may yet play a part in deciding the outcome.

Helmut Marko clause could be used as Max Verstappen exit tactic

Verstappen is under contract with Red Bull until the end of 2028 but his future with the Milton Keynes-based squad looks less assured nowadays than it has in the past.

The Dutch driver has said his future, for now, is with Red Bull but father Jos hinted in an interview with RaceXpress recently that his son also needs to look ahead to F1 2026 and beyond when the regulations change.

“I think everyone wants him, only I think Max is right for the moment,” Verstappen said, as quoted by RacingNews365.nl.

“He has a fast car, but we also have to look further to 2026, so we are letting everything come to us at the moment. We stay very calm and see what will happen.”

After F1 2025, both chassis and engine regulations are overhauled for a new look formula and there’s no guarantee that Red Bull will remain at the top of Formula 1.

With the new Red Bull Powertrains division set to make Red Bull an engine manufacturer in its own right, there’s no doubt that the team is facing a stern challenge due to a lack of experience in engine building compared to established manufacturers like Mercedes, Ferrari, and Honda.

Added to this worry is the fact that Red Bull is now facing the new regulation cycle without the oversight of design chief Adrian Newey, as the chief technical officer of the Red Bull Technology Group confirmed last week he will depart Milton Keynes by mid-2025.

With Verstappen admitting in Miami that he would have preferred Newey to have remained onboard, he has consistently stopped short of saying he has any intentions of leaving Red Bull but has also not firmly said that he has no intentions of departing before the end of his current deal.

According to a report by the BBC, Verstappen may also be able to extricate himself from his contract thanks to a ‘Helmut Marko clause’ that was inserted into his deal, reportedly without the knowledge of Christian Horner as Marko introduced the clause through his position as a director of Red Bull.

The clause means that, if Marko is no longer with Red Bull, Verstappen is able to leave the team as well – the three-time F1 World Champion having made his position clear on Marko’s continued involvement earlier this season as it appeared a Red Bull suspension was imminent for Marko.

According to Andrew Benson, Marko has promised Verstappen that he will ‘do whatever he wants’, meaning that if Verstappen does want to leave Red Bull, Marko can help him trigger his exit clause by simply quitting Red Bull himself.

Should this come to pass, Verstappen would thus follow Newey out the door of Red Bull, leaving him to pursue a new challenge elsewhere on the grid.

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Why is there uncertainty over Max Verstappen’s Red Bull future?

With Newey’s departure from Red Bull the culmination of rumination over the last two years since the current regulations were introduced, the 65-year-old did admit that the off-track dramas surrounding the team this year did play a role in his decision to call time on his Red Bull tenure.

The turmoil that has enveloped the team stems back to January when Red Bull GmbH confirmed an internal investigation into Christian Horner was underway due to an employee’s allegations of his behaviour.

After the investigation was dismissed in February, Verstappen’s father Jos publicly called for the long-serving team principal to resign in the aftermath of the season-opening Bahrain Grand Prix, accusing Horner of “playing the victim when he is the one causing the problems.”

Verstappen Sr went on to claim Red Bull could “explode” if Horner, who has headed the team since its arrival on the grid in 2005, remains in position.

With Horner retaining the support of both the Austrian and Thai shareholders, peace has largely been restored – but the fallout hasn’t yet quite ended.

While the fallout from the turmoil has largely calmed down, the question marks over the team’s long-term competitiveness – combined with the recent dramas – mean Verstappen is still a flight risk.

But Red Bull CEO Oliver Mintzlaff said he has no doubts over the loyalty of the Dutch driver.

“He is a thoroughbred racer and wants to win every race, every qualifying, and every training session,” he said.

“This connects us. It’s in his and our DNA. And he finds the perfect conditions for this with us. We have created a unique set-up and built the best car in Formula 1.

“Max still has a long-term contract here and hasn’t said a word that he doesn’t want to fulfill it.

“I’m not at all worried that he’s considering a move. Things just have to calm down again now. That’s what Max wants – and that’s what we want too. You also need that if you want to be successful in the long term in sport, whether in football or Formula 1.”

With Verstappen and Red Bull continuing to dominate F1, and the Dutch driver eyeing up a fourth consecutive World Championship win, Mintzlaff said he sees no reason why Verstappen might consider leaving the team to join a rival.

“As I said before, Max wants the fastest car and we have it,” he said.

“Max wants to be World Champion and, with us, he has the best chance. Max is a loyal guy.

“He knows that Christian and Helmut have always given him their trust. He appreciates that. Moreover, Red Bull is just a great brand with which he can identify excellently. So there are many reasons for him to stay.”

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