Helmut Marko addresses ‘next Max Verstappen’ search with McLaren put on notice

Michelle Foster
Lando Norris waves in front of the Red Bull.

Lando Norris has chosen to stay put and ignore speculation about a move to Red Bull.

Although Red Bull have the once-in-a-lifetime talent of Max Verstappen, Helmut Marko is searching for the next F1 superstar, and he may find him by raiding McLaren’s driver pool.

Marko is in charge of Red Bull’s junior programme and while the Austrian has been criticised for his ruthlessness in weeding out top talent, he also deserves praise for finding the likes of Sebastian Vettel and Verstappen.

Who will lead the Red Bull charge when Max Verstappen leaves?

Both drivers have won multiple World Championships with Red Bull, leading the team to Constructors’ victories and F1 records.

Today it is Verstappen who is on a charge, brought into Formula 1 in 2015 with Red Bull’s junior team before being promoted to the senior squad a year later and winning on debut.

Eight years later, he has 58 Grand Prix wins, three World titles, and the record for the most successive wins, plus most points and most wins in a season.

And there are few signs today of anyone toppling the Dutchman and his Red Bull team.

But despite that, Verstappen is said to be considering his future amidst Red Bull’s off-track drama that includes the Christian Horner investigation and Adrian Newey’s potential exit.

As such, Marko has to think about who comes next in the Red Bull pool.

“There will never be another Verstappen, at least I don’t see one at the moment,” he told Kleine Zeitung.

“But we always deal with young drivers. For example, Isack Hadjar was recently unlucky in Formula 2, otherwise, he would be leading the series.”

In fact, who comes next to lead Red Bull into the post-Verstappen era, whether that is in F1 2026 or ’29, Marko admits it could be someone from outside of Red Bull’s pool of drivers – most notably McLaren’s.

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“Norris has at least a contract until 2026, so he is not an option in the short term, nor is Oscar Piastri,” he said. “But both drivers are certainly interesting for us in the future.”

Back in September, McLaren and Piastri agreed a fresh multi-year contract extension that will keep the Australian at the British team until at least the end of 2026, while in January Norris signed an “extended multi-year” with the team for 2025 and beyond.

But while the Norris and Piastri rumours are for the future, today Red Bull are still being linked to Ferrari’s Carlos Sainz.

Jobless for the 2025 season despite being the only non-Red Bull driver to have won a Grand Prix since 2022, Marko says they are talking to the Spaniard but reiterated Audi’s salary could be the sticking point.

“We’re talking to him, he’s having his strongest season in Formula 1,” he said. “But he has a very lucrative offer from Audi that we can’t match or beat.

“But we still know him from the Toro Rosso days, even back then he drove with Max. But it really hurt him back then when we at Red Bull relied on Verstappen and not on him.”

Read next: More Red Bull departures predicted with Adrian Newey set for crunch talks on F1 future