Marko: Signing Max was not to outsmart Mercedes

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Helmut Marko and Max Verstappen at pre-season testing. Spain February 2020

Helmut Marko and Max Verstappen at pre-season testing in Barcelona. Spain February 2020

Helmut Marko says Red Bull signed Max Verstappen as they were certain he was ready for F1, not just to get one up on Mercedes. 

The Dutchman started to attract the attention of F1 teams at a very young age, impressing hugely in karting before making the step up to Formula 3 in 2014 at the age of 16 and immediately being one of the stand-out performers.

It wasn’t any old F1 teams either, with powerhouses Mercedes and Red Bull in direct contact with himself and his father and preparing offers, with Toto Wolff and the German team intending to sign him and find him a Formula 2 seat for 2015.

That ultimately never happened though as Marko and co swooped in, offering the current World Champion an F1 seat at Toro Rosso instead, thus sealing the deal and adding him to their ranks.

Speaking about what happened, Marko says it was all about the driver’s abilities and had nothing to do with a desire to get one up on Mercedes.

“Of course we knew he was talking to Mercedes, but Max certainly wouldn’t have gotten into Formula 1 so quickly at Mercedes,” the Austrian told the Dutch branch of

“They weren’t willing to take a lot of risk with a newcomer and we were. Red Bull is also different as a company, we are more of the ‘no risk, no fun’ mentality. You can see that perfectly in Max.

“But our move was not so much to trump Mercedes, it was mainly because I was one hundred percent convinced that Max was ready for Formula 1. That also became apparent afterwards and I have to say: we handled it thoroughly in terms of preparation.

“We gave him as many test days as possible within the regulations and also deliberately planned his first training at Suzuka.

“For young drivers it is one of the most difficult circuits of the entire calendar and it immediately gave us a great opportunity to see how Max would perform in difficult conditions.

“All in all, it was a sound plan.”


Even after joining Red Bull though, Verstappen as well as his father remained in close contact with Wolff, meaning rumours of him one day joining the German team often swirled.

However, after the titanic title fight in 2021 which saw the two parties fall out, Marko says such a move will never happen now, due mainly to how Wolff celebrated Lewis Hamilton’s win while Verstappen was in hospital after the British Grand Prix.


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