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Helmut Marko: Red Bull mastermind and Max Verstappen 'father figure'

Helmut Marko: Red Bull mastermind and Max Verstappen 'father figure'

F1 News

Helmut Marko: Red Bull mastermind and Max Verstappen 'father figure'

Helmut Marko: Red Bull mastermind and Max Verstappen 'father figure'

A former champion sports car driver turned Formula 1 mastermind, Helmut Marko has become an increasingly familiar figure to fans – especially Red Bull fans – as the 21st century has rolled on.

Born in Graz, Austria on 27 April 1943, Marko is a long-time adviser to the Red Bull family of teams. Those include Red Bull Racing itself as well as Scuderia AlphaTauri, formerly Scuderia Toro Rosso.

Marko himself raced in Formula 1 in the early 1970s before being forced into an early retirement by an eye injury, and has stayed connected to motorsport either through managing drivers, starting his own Formula 3 team, and subsequently his long relationship with Red Bull.

Helmut Marko in F1 – the Red Bull years

The 79-year-old started his affiliation with Red Bull in 1999, before they even had a Formula 1 team. He was running his own Formula 3000 team at the time under the name of RSM Marko, which became known as Red Bull Junior Team from 1999-2003.

He also started overseeing the Red Bull driver development program in 1999, a program which has produced world champions Sebastian Vettel and Max Verstappen, as well as Formula 1 race winners Daniel Riccardo and Carlos Sainz.

In all, 14 drivers from the program have raced for Toro Rossi/AlphaTauri in Formula 1, with seven of those also racing for Red Bull (plus Christian Klien, who raced for Red Bull without sitting in a Toro Rosso).

He also has a role as an 'advisor' to Red Bull and AlphaTauri, with no little input in conversations about which drivers see the track. The exact scope of his role has always been somewhat murky, but he always enjoyed a close working relationship with Red Bull owner Dietrich Mateschitz before the latter's death in October 2022.

There has been some speculation that Oliver Mintzlaff's arrival to replace Mateschitz has resulted in Marko's freedom to operate being curtailed somewhat, although star driver Max Verstappen has spoken of his close relationship with the experienced Austrian in the past.

“Helmut is like a father to me, yes," said Verstappen in 2021. "I have a very good relationship with both of them [Marko and Christian Horner] and with Helmut, he says what he thinks and is always straightforward and I like that."

Marko the racing driver – a career ended by injury

As mentioned, Marko himself was a successful racing driver in a number of formats before becoming Red Bull's young driver whisperer later in life.

He raced nine times in Formula 1 himself without scoring any points, with only the top six drivers scoring points back in those days rather than points being spread over the whole top ten.

His major triumphs came outside of Formula 1, coming third in the 1970 edition of the Le Mans 24 Hours before coming back to win the event the following year.

Unfortunately, his career behind the wheel was ended early. At what proved to be his final race – the French Grand Prix of 1972 – he was struck in the helmet visor by a stone flung up by another car and permanently blinded in the left eye.

Helmut Marko outside F1

While motor racing has been a major part of Marko's life since he first stepped into a cockpit, it's far from the only thing he's been involved in.

Four years before his triumph at Le Mans, Marko received not just a degree in law, but a doctorate. When people call him 'Dr Marko', it isn't just a nickname, a la Alain 'the Professor' Prost, but a real, earned title.

Despite all of his success on the track, Marko may not even be the most famous racing driver from his own school. He was childhood friends with 1970 Formula 1 world champion Jochen Rindt, who tragically died during his championship season – just before getting the chance to compete alongside the man with whom he used to race in the streets on mopeds.

Marko has a keen interest in architecture, which can be seen in the presentation of the quartet of hotels he owns in his home town of Graz.

His net worth is unknown.

Wife and family

For a man who spends a good amount of his time talking to the media, relatively little is widely known about his personal life or marital status, or whether he has children.

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