Max ‘important figure’ in manufacturer ‘chess game’

Jamie Woodhouse
Max Verstappen, Red Bull, celebrates with his arm raised. Saudi Arabia, March 2022.

Red Bull’s Helmut Marko is well aware of the value which Max Verstappen has when attracting partners, like Porsche perhaps?

Verstappen joined the Formula 1 grid back in 2015, with Red Bull’s backing.

He started out at junior team Toro Rosso, with the potential which Red Bull saw in him to justify such a risk, considering he was only 17 at the time, quickly becoming clear.

It was not until 2021 though that the Austrian outfit were able to provide a car capable of challenging for the title, and on that first attempt, Verstappen would crown himself World Champion at the end of an epic season-long battle with Mercedes’ Lewis Hamilton.

And before the start of the 2022 season, Verstappen put pen to paper on a new deal with Red Bull, a Formula 1 record for longevity as it ties him down until 2028.

That means that the deal will comfortably take him into the era of new power units from 2026, an important piece of business for Red Bull, who want to demonstrate to potential new manufacturers that they have the fastest driver on the grid.

Max Verstappen's Red Bull during free practice for the Australian GP. Melbourne April 2022.

“Max Verstappen is certainly an important figure in the whole chess game,” Marko told Formel.de.

“It’s not absurd for manufacturers to look at that and in that respect it was important for the team to be able to say, ‘Look, we have the fastest and best driver tied up’.

“In this world, there are always talks and attempts to bring someone in. If you have a guy like that in the team, it acts as an incentive for other team members and partners.”

Red Bull are of course heavily linked with starting a partnership with Porsche from 2026, the German brand potentially taking over the Red Bull power unit, while fellow Volkswagen brand Audi are also firmly in the conversation to enter Formula 1.

This then is the perfect example of what Marko talks about when it comes to Verstappen’s value in bringing partners onboard.

Marko though was not prepared to be drawn into giving any confirmation.

 

Asked how much he would value keeping the number one on Verstappen’s car come 2026 for the Porsche deal, Marko replied: “Well, if I said ‘good’ or ‘a lot’ now you’d think we’d done all sorts of deals.

“That is still all open, although it is logical that we are the most attractive partner for manufacturers. Number 1 on the car in 2026 would of course be a wonderful addition, but we are still miles away from that at the moment.”

 

Surer: 'Sloppy assembly' may have caused Verstappen retirement

Former F1 driver Marc Surer questioned whether or not a sloppy piece of work caused Max Verstappen's retirement in Melbourne