Red Bull Racing’s Helmut Marko and Mercedes non-executive chairman Niki Lauda have had an extraordinary clash of words.The Lauda-Marko standoff mostly revolved around Dutch sensation Max Verstappen. Both Verstappen and Aston Martin Red Bull Racing team-mate Daniel Ricciardo’s contracts expire at the end of the upcoming season.
Since both drivers are Grand Prix winners, rival teams, Mercedes and Ferrari will be eyeing the two for their services. Both teams are yet to decide their post 2018 lineup, but Ferrari have confirmed Sebastian Vettel on a long-term deal.
Aston Martin Red Bull Racing are concerned about losing Verstappen to Mercedes. Many speculate that the Austrian marquee have no chance of retaining Max. Especially considering their current situation as a customer team to bigger manufacturers.
Recently, Max’s father Jos Verstappen, a former Formula One driver himself, was spotted inside the Mercedes motorhome at Monza having a meeting with Merc boss Toto Wolff. This made the Austrian team a little nervous and they promptly offered Verstappen a lucrative long-term deal.
However, Lauda claimed that they never approached Verstappen. The former F1 world champion said, “We never offered him a contract. I have a good relationship to Helmut. We usually share an airplane. But when he is getting stubborn, and thinks that something could be taken away from him, he immediately signs a contract. He went to Austin with [Verstappen’s] father and signed. I tell you, if we had talked before, you would have saved money. We never talked to him about money.”
Responding to Lauda’s comments, Marko said, “We introduced him to our plans for the future. We guaranteed that our most important people are committed until 2020, and that we have an alternative in terms of engine supply. This is no secret. All this convinced him. Of course, he used the chance to get a salary rise. It’s within reason. He is far from [the salary of] Hamilton or Vettel. When he wins championships, he can reach that level. This is no secret.”
Lauda retorted: “When he becomes a world champion he can get the same like Hamilton? You will pay him like we do?”
Marko added: “For Formula 1 proportions, we are on a relatively low level in terms of fixed salary. But we have good bonuses”. Will the Lauda-Marko argument end?