Emotional Max Verstappen reflects on Dietrich Mateschitz encounter

It was announced on Saturday that Red Bull co-founder Dietrich Mateschitz had sadly died, at the age of 78.

Times are certainly tough for Red Bull Racing at the moment, with the ongoing ‘Cashgate’ scandal continuing to tarnish the team’s reputation.

However, things sadly took an even worse turn on Saturday at the United States Grand Prix, as it was announced that the company’s co-founder Dietrich Mateschitz had died.

A team meeting was seen taking place in Red Bull’s hospitality area prior to qualifying, where the entire team were informed on the deeply saddening news that arguably one of the most influential figures in modern motorsport history, had passed.

Mateschitz died on Saturday peacefully at the age of 78, following a “very serious health condition”.

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“Apparently it was pancreatic cancer,” revealed Roger Benoit, a Swiss journalist for Blick newspaper.

The Austrian is undoubtedly someone that a huge number of teams, athletes and sports will grieve the death of, given the unbelievable impact Red Bull have had on sport across the globe.

It would be safe to assume that virtually every living adult on the planet could name a Red Bull-sponsored athlete or team, putting into perspective the extensive support network Mateschitz has been instrumental in implementing to generate sporting talent.

Red Bull’s F1 team is proof of that, with the side having their own junior programme supporting drivers from a young age right up to the pinnacle of motorsport.

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Perhaps the most talented of the lot, in regard to F1, is Max Verstappen, who recently celebrated claiming his second consecutive World Championship.

Verstappen led an incredible number of tributes to Austria’s richest billionaire, whose mark on F1 will also be remembered.

“I was lucky to be able to see him again a few weeks ago and spend some time with him,” said Verstappen.

“The last time I saw him, the things we discussed, that made the day very special even then. And now that final encounter has gained even more depth.

“The news of his death is very difficult to take. I will remember him as a man of gentle character who took care of people with extreme love. He didn’t seek the limelight.

“I got to know him as a racer at heart with an enormous passion for the sport. I mean, who else in the history of Formula 1 has ever started two teams?” Verstappen added.

Red Bull advisor Dr Helmut Marko is believed to have been the closest person to Mateschitz in regard to F1 and explained that his long-time friend would want the side to “keep going” at the US Grand Prix this weekend.

Should either Verstappen or Sergio Pérez claim victory at the Circuit of the Americas, it’s easy to predict who the win will be in honour of.

Marko hailed the energy drink co-founder as a “modest person”, with the most “unique” of personalities.

“We knew that Didi had a very serious health condition,” he said. “But still, now that it has happened, it is incomprehensible to all of us that such a great personality had to step down so soon.

“But in acknowledgment of all his ideas, of all that he has created, we keep going. That’s what he wanted.

“All of this in Formula 1 is due to Didi alone. His vision, his trust in the team but also his other entrepreneurial activities, just reflects a truly unique personality.

“But once again, he was a modest person so with this in mind we now want to go into the rest of this weekend calmly but with emphatic results,” Marko added.

Four-time World Champion Sebastian Vettel, who remains Red Bull’s first World Champion in F1 and also their most successful driver, is someone who has known Mateschitz for an incredibly long-time, given that Vettel joined Red Bull’s sister side Toro Rosso in 2008.

The German has many memories of the “very special” Austrian but wants time to “think” about the great man first, someone who clearly holds a special place in the 35-year-old’s life.

“I think he was someone who was very special who always managed to do what others didn’t think was even possible,” he said.

“I don’t feel able to share any more memories of him at this time. This is really bad news and I want to think about it first.”

The announcement of Mateschitz’s death also saw Red Bull’s and Mercedes’ intense rivalry momentarily stop, as fellow Austrian Toto Wolff sent his condolences to the “most incredible entrepreneur”, in what he labelled as a “sad day” for their country.

“Mateschitz was the most incredible entrepreneur,” Wolff said.

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“And not only for what he managed to build for his own product or a great brand, but also for what he did for the sport.

“There was a lot of respect despite all the fighting on the track, so it’s also a sad day for Austria and for everyone involved in the sport.

“He did so much, in all kinds of sports – football, ice hockey, all the action sports. And here in Formula 1, I think he was the most groundbreaking entrepreneur and part of Formula 1 history.”