Red Bull advisor Dr Helmut Marko has said he believes that Max Verstappen’s championship success last year was the most crucial in the team’s history.
The Milton Keynes-based outfit claimed four consecutive Drivers’ Championships with Sebastian Vettel between 2010 and 2013, with team-mate Mark Webber helping them to the constructors’ title in all four of those years.
However, the turn of the hybrid era saw the team win just 17 races between 2014 and 2020, and Verstappen even had a clause in his contract allowing him to leave for another team if Red Bull were unable to give him a sufficiently competitive car.
The Dutchman’s links to Mercedes diminished last year though in what became an immensely tense rivalry with Sir Lewis Hamilton, and a crash between the pair at Silverstone which sent the 24-year-old in the wall in a 51G collision led him to accuse the Brackley-based team and his rival of a lack of respect in their celebrations when Hamilton eventually won the British Grand Prix.
Verstappen’s father and former Formula 1 driver Jos has previously confirmed his loss of admiration for Mercedes, suggesting that there are no longer any intentions for his son to join the constructors’ champions.
Dr Marko agrees that this bridge has likely been burned.
“I think the events at Silverstone left a real crack, especially for Jos. I think that makes him less inclined to switch sides,” he told Autorevue.
Verstappen claimed 10 race wins and 18 podiums on his way to his maiden F1 title last year, and the Austrian is relieved that the devotion that went into last year’s project midway through 2020 paid off.
“This success was very important for us. That’s why we’ve been working towards it,” he stated.
“I said to the English [the Milton Keynes crew] ‘We need a winning car if we want to keep Verstappen in the long term’. And the decision was made in mid-2020 that we would invest in this car.”
Mercedes had won all seven of the previous Drivers’ and Constructors’ Championships before last year, and Dr Marko is grateful to Honda for the engine that competed exceptionally with Mercedes’ power unit in 2021.
Further, he believes that knocking the Silver Arrows off their perch was important for the sport.
“Breaking that dominance [of Mercedes], which was mainly down to the [Honda] engine, after seven years has had an impact on the whole of Formula 1,” he explained.
As a result, Verstappen’s victory has cultivated such a rise in figures for the company that the Red Bull advisor sees it as the “most important” in the history of the team established in 2005.
“Viewership and interest have grown rapidly. It’s definitely the most important win we’ve had in Red Bull Racing’s history,” he detailed.
Red Bull will continue to be supplied with Honda engines in 2022 after a dramatic U-turn following the team’s intention to manufacture their own powertrains due to the Japanese manufacturer’s prior decision to leave Formula 1.
Their relationship will now continue until 2025, but it is unknown whether Honda branding will appear on the car.