Red Bull urged to still sack ‘useless’ Helmut Marko over ‘destructive’ behaviour

Thomas Maher
Red Bull's Helmut Marko watches on from the garage at the Qatar Grand Prix

Helmut Marko: Red Bull's motorsport advisor overseeing the driver pool

Helmut Marko’s presence at Red Bull has been labelled “useless and destructive” by former F1 team manager, Joan Villadelprat.

Marko’s assignment as Red Bull’s motorsport consultant has been pulled into sharp focus in recent months, with the 80-year-old Austrian finding himself at the centre of a xenophobic controversy following nationality-based comments he made about the underperforming Sergio Perez.

While Marko issued a public apology, as well as Perez publicly accepting his contrition, rumours have swirled that an internal power struggle is underway at Red Bull as Marko’s position appears tenuous following the death of company owner and close friend Dietrich Mateschitz last year.

Helmut Marko is “not helping at all” with struggling Red Bull drivers

The Red Bull driver programme, which is overseen by Marko, is well known for being exceptionally ruthless on junior drivers, although that has shown signs of softening in recent years with Yuki Tsunoda’s career surviving after a tough start, Pierre Gasly being given time to refind his confidence at AlphaTauri, and rehiring Daniel Ricciardo despite the Australian’s struggles at McLaren.

But Sergio Perez is currently bearing the brunt of the pressure at Red Bull, with the Mexican driver struggling for consistent performance alongside Max Verstappen in the RB19. Perez is coming off the back of a run of exceptionally troubled races, and he has been publicly called out by Red Bull to find more performance.

Former Tyrrell, Benetton, and Prost team manager Joan Villadelprat opened up on Perez and Marko in an exclusive interview with, with the Spaniard believing the time has come for Marko and the Red Bull F1 team to part ways.

“Take Helmut Marko away from the f**king team,” Villadelprat bluntly said, when asked by about Perez’s struggles.

“Every time he opens his mouth, the only thing he’s doing is hammering.

“It’s an area that you don’t need to talk about because, if things don’t go well and things are tough for a driver, you don’t need somebody telling you that you’re useless.

“When you’re a manager and you have a lot of people working with you, there are various ways of working. You have some people that you need to be behind hammering them.

“That’s the way that you motivate them. But you have people that you don’t need to hammer. When they make a mistake, you pick up the pieces and put them back again. So help him to get back into the place.

“That’s what a manager should be doing. That’s what Christian is supposed to be doing. But, at the moment right now, there is no better choice than Checo [Perez] for Red Bull.”

Asked whether Marko’s pressure is contributing to Perez’s current struggles, Villadelprat said: “Yes, he’s not helping at all. He’s not helping at all. He’s not helping the team at all, ever.

“I have worked with Marko, I’ve had five cars from him in junior categories, and I had Jaime Alguersuari and Brendon Hartley – Red Bull boys in my teams. I know the pressure that he puts on the young kids, he’s useless.

“He thinks that shouting and doing that kind of thing is going to get a reaction, but it’s not – that’s how you destroy people instead of pushing people.” recommends

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Sergio Perez performance would improve with ‘a lot of love and help’

Perez’s performance downswing came about a time when Max Verstappen started to stamp his authority on the 2023 season, beginning with a dominant drive in Miami that had him from behind to overtake Perez and take the win.

With Verstappen’s metronomic momentum seeing him through to clinch a third consecutive title in Qatar, has Perez been mentally broken by his teammate’s ability?

“I think part of it, yes, it doesn’t help,” Villaldelprat said.

“Whoever we put with Michael [Schumacher, at Benetton] was destroyed.

“[Johnny] Herbert was a great driver, but destroyed. [Martin] Brundle was a great driver, destroyed. Same with Nelson Piquet and Riccardo Patrese. Whoever you put with Michael was destroyed.

“Anyone you put next to Fernando Alonso is destroyed. Max destroys anyone next to him. I don’t know, I think part of it is psychological.

“Another big part I believe, and the most important to me, is obviously you have the guy that wins. And a guy they ask for who has to solve some problems to help them win even more comfortably.

“So the development of that car goes towards the guy who wins, logically, and this development is not what Checo needs. You cannot split the team. I read that Checo was asking for the car specification to go back to when he was comfortable.

“The aerodynamics and everything will have changed a hell of a lot, the team will understand the tyres a lot more. Today, you don’t have much time at a circuit, it’s not like the old days when you could spend a week at a circuit testing and do all the experiments you want and change it. Now it’s a theoretical thing on how the car should work from the factory. You’ve got an hour or two and, sometimes, in that hour, you need to qualify for the race!”

But is Perez the right man to stay alongside Verstappen in 2024, and can he refind his form? Villadelprat believes that, for now, the Mexican remains Red Bull’s best option.

“If I’m Christian Horner, I don’t think there’s anybody else around that can do better than Checo,” he said.

“Maybe Fernando, I think Marko said the same thing. Probably, Max would be happy to do that. But I don’t think there’s any, right now, that can be better than Checo. I’d hang on and grow up Liam Lawson or think more deeply about who you could pinch from another team but, right now, the best choice is still Checo.

“With a lot of help and a lot of love to bring him security, he’s there.”

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