Quizzed on his decision to rule Mick Schumacher out of AlphaTauri contention, Helmut Marko said the Red Bull programme is based on “performance” not “marketing”. Ouch.
Red Bull’s junior team AlphaTauri went into the F1 2023 campaign with a new driver pairing, Yuki Tsunoda beginning his third season with the team in the series, alongside rookie Nyck de Vries.
Red Bull had moved to bring De Vries into the fold after an impressive points-scoring debut with Williams at the 2022 Italian Grand Prix as he stood in for the ill Alex Albon.
De Vries has made a slow start to full-time life in Formula 1 though, needing until the Monaco Grand Prix to finish a race up the road from Tsunoda.
Tsunoda did though in Monaco report braking issues which got worse when rain began to fall, the Japanese driver heading into the escape road at Mirabeau at one stage, opening the door for De Vries and others to gain a position.
De Vries is currently fighting to prove that he belongs in that AlphaTauri line-up, though if Marko decided that he does not, then Red Bull juniors Liam Lawson and Ayumu Iwasa are the drivers who he named as the contenders to take his place.
Red Bull reserve Daniel Ricciardo and Mick Schumacher were both ruled out, Mick now serving as Mercedes reserve having lost his seat with Haas at the end of the 2022 campaign.
And while Haas boss Guenther Steiner’s dealings with Mick often drew the ire of his uncle Ralf, Marko’s rejection also triggered a response from him, who reportedly claimed on Sky’s coverage that Marko had a problem with the Schumacher name.
Marko had a typically to-the-point response of his own, asserting that it is performance which gets a driver in the Red Bull door, not the marketing power that comes with a name – Mick, of course, the son of legendary seven-time World Champion Michael Schumacher.
He also quashed the suggestion that he has a problem with that iconic last name.
“I have no problem with the name Schumacher,” Marko told oe24. “For me Michael Schumacher is the greatest.
“I talk to Ralf regularly. But he is confusing one thing: our F1 programme is based on performance, not on marketing.”
Mick had recently been linked with a future move to Williams, with Mercedes boss Wolff, a former shareholder in Williams, also very familiar with their team principal James Vowles, the long-standing head of Mercedes strategy.
But, with Alex Albon tied down to a multi-year deal, and Vowles backing their rookie driver Logan Sargeant to improve, Mick’s chances of forcing his way in there appear to be slim.