Helmut Marko reveals Max Verstappen and Carlos Sainz had ‘quite toxic’ relationship

Carlos Sainz raced for Scuderia Toro Rosso, Red Bull’s junior team, from 2015 to 2017, before joining Renault.

Senior Red Bull adviser Dr Helmut Marko has revealed that Max Verstappen and Carlos Sainz had a “toxic” relationship during their tenure at Red Bull’s junior team.

The Spaniard joined Scuderia Toro Rosso in 2015, partnering Verstappen in his debut season in Formula 1.

Sainz stayed at the Faenza-based team until the end of 2017, while the Dutch ace was promoted to Red Bull Racing in the early going of the 2016 season following Daniil Kvyat being axed and sent to take Verstappen’s seat at the sister team.

After getting out of the Red Bull programme, Sainz joined Renault, before switching to McLaren and, most recently, Ferrari.

In a recent interview, Dr Marko said Sainz was unlucky to have had Verstappen as his team-mate at the time, as it ultimately meant he was overlooked for the mid-season Red Bull promotion.

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He also noted that the atmosphere at the team was made toxic by the rivalry between the two young drivers.

 “It was his bad luck to get Max as a teammate. The atmosphere between the two at AlphaTauri/Toro Rosso was quite toxic,” said the Austrian.

“In the set-up we had at the time, I couldn’t see a way of keeping him with us and so he moved to Renault, McLaren and then on to Ferrari.”

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Continuing, Dr Marko heaped praise onto Sainz, describing him as “undoubtedly a top driver” and adding, “He was almost on a par with Max at Toro Rosso.”

In the same interview, he looked back on Daniel Ricciardo’s stint at Red Bull; the Australian raced with the Milton Keynes-based team from 2014 to 2018 after being promoted from Scuderia Toro Rosso.

Dr Marko described him as a “cheerful, natural talent with outstanding car control,” but described Verstappen’s arrival at the team as a “crunch point” in his Formula 1 career.

“In his first year at Red Bull Racing, he beat Vettel by three wins to nil. Max coming on the scene was a crunch point in his career.”

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He went on to suggest that Ricciardo opted to leave the team for Renault because he wasn’t interested in an intra-team fight with Verstappen, who was on the ascendancy.

“Rather than taking up the fight, he wanted to keep his distance. And you know what happened next. That’s too bad!

“He was always nice to work with. His speed is comparable to that of Max, but he’s just lacking that ultimate consistency,” Dr Marko added.