Max Verstappen free to leave Red Bull ‘whenever he wants’ due to Helmut Marko

The Dutchman has been linked with Mercedes and could leave before his contract expires in 2028

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Red Bull advisor Helmut Marko holds the key to Max Verstappen’s future after reportedly promising to fulfil his wishes if he decides to leave the Formula 1 team.

While Verstappen has consistently repeated he is happy to stay at Red Bull “for the moment”, he has refused to rule out a move in the future – especially with the new engine regulations arriving in 2026 – and Mercedes are keen on recruiting the three-time world champion.

Team principal Christian Horner denied reports ahead of the Miami Grand Prix that Verstappen’s contract contained a clause linked to Adrian Newey’s future. However, it is understood he has an agreement that allows him to leave if Marko quits or is sacked.

According to BBC Sport, Verstappen has been promised by Marko that if he wants to leave, he will honour his wishes and resign from his role.

Helmut Marko looks on | Dan Mullan / Getty Images / Red Bull Content Pool

The report claims Verstappen can go ‘whenever he wants’, which would undermine the security of their contract with their prized asset.

Marko and Verstappen have maintained a close relationship since the Austrian made the bold decision in 2016 to install the Dutchman in place of Daniil Kvyat, who was consequently demoted to the Toro Rosso team.

Cracks starting to show at Red Bull

The Dutchman has won 57 races and three consecutive drivers’ championship titles since his debut in 2016. But the internal turmoil within the Austrian team has caused a divide, and the departure of Adrian Newey could spark an exodus from the Milton Keynes-based outfit.

A dispute between Marko and Horner is part of the internal power struggle at Red Bull that has broken out into the open since allegations were made against Horner.

The 50-year-old faced intense scrutiny over his position after being accused of ‘inappropriate behaviour’ by a female employee, before he was cleared following Red Bull’s independent investigation.

It was widely speculated in March that Marko could be ousted from the team, before managing director Oliver Mintzlaff stepped in to resolve the situation. But with calls from Jos Verstappen for him to resign and Newey quitting after 19 years in the team, the cracks are starting to show – and there is no guarantee Verstappen will stay beyond 2024.

Mercedes boss Toto Wolff has made it clear he would be interested in signing Verstappen, 26, to replace Ferrari-bound Lewis Hamilton and is prepared to wait for the championship leader’s decision before filling the vacant seat.

Joe Krishnan
Joe Krishnan is an NCTJ-qualified journalist who has worked for a number of media organisations, including the Daily Express, The Mirror, Evening Standard, The Independent and Bleacher Report. Joe has been following F1 since when he watched Mika Hakkinen clinch the 1999 drivers' championship, and his first taste of real-life racing action was watching David Coulthard spin off into the gravel at the British Grand Prix at Silverstone in 2001.
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