Helmut Marko sack threat led to ‘heated moments’ with Carlos Sainz

Sam Cooper
Helmut Marko and Carlos Sainz

Helmut Marko has been overseeing Red Bull’s junior programme since 1999.

Daniil Kvyat has recalled how he and Carlos Sainz had some “heated moments” in their early careers due to the pressure of Helmut Marko.

Sainz and Kvyat shared a garage in 2010 when Red Bull placed both of them in the same Formula BMW Europe team following an impressive junior career.

But even when they were still some way off an F1 drive, the pressure of Marko was never too far away.

Helmut Marko pressure led to Carlos Sainz-Daniil Kvyat ‘heated moments’

For Kvyat, he put himself on Red Bull’s radar by winning the KF3 Bridgestone Cup European Final, Silver Cup and Torneo Industrie titles in 2008 before adding the KF3 South Garda Winter Cup and Trofeo Andrea Margutti titles to his collection a year later.

“That’s where I got Red Bull’s attention,” Kvyat told F1. “I went to Varano in Italy for a test in a Formula BMW. It was with Carlos Sainz and a more experienced driver, Felipe Nasr, so there was a reference for us.

”[Red Bull advisor] Helmut Marko was very happy with the test and said, ‘If this is really your first time then it’s very good’.

“We signed the contract after that when me and my father came to the Grand Prix in Valencia. Helmut said, ‘Look, I appreciate your results, I’ve heard a lot of good things, here’s a contract, read it overnight and come back to me if you want to take it or leave it’.

“At that point, what do you do? You just accept whatever terms are there, as many years as there are, and you sign it.”

But Marko’s demanding nature was clear from the off, with the Austrian threatening to sack the Russian should he not perform well in a race.

“Especially at the beginning it was tough and I got a call from Helmut,” Kvyat said. “He was like, ‘You know what, if you don’t improve next race, I think we’re done here’, so I was like, ‘Wow, OK’. I was under a lot of pressure already.

“I had to go to Hockenheim and be ahead of Carlos, Helmut told me.

“I said, ‘OK, but please change the car to my liking’, because the set-up was the set-up and we just ran it. We did it and it worked very well, I remember I out-qualified Carlos and was ahead in the races.

“I think that’s what Helmut really liked about me, because he thought, ‘OK, if I can basically tell him he’s going to be fired and he can do this job, then it’s good’.”

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But such pressure led to tension within the team and the Russian recalls some “heated moments” with his fellow driver.

“Today me and Carlos are really good friends, but when we were team mates there were some heated moments,” he said.

“We travelled a lot together, we had some contact on the track, and sometimes even our fathers had to intervene and say, ‘Hey, guys, calm down!’

“Especially at the beginning it was tough and I got a call from Helmut. He was like, ‘You know what, if you don’t improve next race, I think we’re done here’

“During the GP3 season, Helmut told us, ‘OK, an F1 seat is on the table, so whoever does best will probably get it’, and that’s when it started to be very serious.

“I remember the round in Belgium, where we started first and second, almost tied on points, and I had to get that win. I won it, Carlos had a crash and I got a big lead in the points.

“There was another European F3 championship at the time, with a bit of a different car. Helmut wanted me to also do some races in that series, to do well in both cars, and I started winning there as well.

“I remember a race at the Red Bull Ring and it was close to Helmut, so he came to say hi, and I did three pole positions out of three, so that was a very important step.

“Then Carlos felt it and he said he’d do the World Series by Renault, just to show Helmut that he could do well in both cars, only that in his case it wasn’t going as well.

“So, more things were in my favour, I won the GP3 title and I was offered the Toro Rosso contract for 2014 before the last race. It felt like a huge achievement at the time, putting my signature on it.”

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