Helmut Marko opens up on fears Max Verstappen ‘will do a Nico Rosberg’

Thomas Maher
Red Bull driver Max Verstappen with his hand to his head, speaking with Helmut Marko and Christian Horner. Baku April 2023

Red Bull driver Max Verstappen with his hand to his head, speaking with Helmut Marko and Christian Horner. Baku April 2023

Helmut Marko has delivered a message to Max Verstappen, telling him not to retire in the same fashion as Nico Rosberg.

In 2016, at the conclusion of a long, arduous title battle with Mercedes teammate Lewis Hamilton, Nico Rosberg abruptly called time on his F1 career just two days after the Abu Dhabi showdown that resulted in title glory.

It was a hugely unexpected move, with Mercedes wrong-footed by Rosberg’s immediate retirement – the German driver citing a desire to return home to spend time with his family after the ordeal of pursuing perfection in his quest to beat Hamilton.

Helmut Marko: Give us some warning, Max Verstappen!

With Max Verstappen making it clear that he is in F1 for a good time, not a long time, the Dutch driver has said that his future will see him racing in the likes of endurance series such as the World Endurance Championship – the prestigious Le Mans 24 Hours is a particular target.

Right now, Formula 1 is Verstappen’s area of focus, but he has been particularly vocal about not liking the direction the sport is going, namely with an ever-expanding race calendar, the addition of Sprint races that he views as unnecessary gimmickry, and all the pressures such a busy championship entails.

His current contract with Red Bull runs until 2028, and the danger is that, at any point, Verstappen could abruptly decide to leave – something which could be more likely if Red Bull deliver a dud car and the reigning World Champion goes back to toiling in the midfield.

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Marko is hopeful his driver won’t leave them high and dry in the fashion Mercedes were left at the conclusion of 2016, as they scrambled to replace their departing World Champion – eventually settling on Valtteri Bottas.

“I’m aware of it, he won’t go forever,” Marko told the Inside Line podcast, when asked about the prospect of Max Verstappen ‘doing a Rosberg’.

“But I hope that he doesn’t do it like Nico and just saying [it] after a bad year.

“Give us some warning, at least, so we can react on it! But I’m aware that it will come.”

Helmut Marko: F1 is hard work and a lot of stress

While Verstappen’s retirement day may come sooner than expected for someone of his youth (he doesn’t turn 26 until September 2023), Marko has no doubt that the Dutch racer will continue to ply his trade in another series in a bid to get away from the pressures of modern F1.

Part of that pressure is about impressing management, like Marko himself, but the Austrian believes the unrelenting schedule the modern F1 championship demands of drivers will lead to burn out.

“He won’t stop racing completely,” he said.

“I think Le Mans and things like that where he’s just going to have fun and enjoy it, he will still do this sort of racing.

“But you can’t underestimate the pressure nowadays of Formula 1, it is 22/23 races, every week on the simulator, a lot of PR activities.

“It’s hard work and it’s a lot of stress and understandable. But I don’t know when, so I hope, at least, he fulfils his contract.”

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