Red Bull senior advisor Dr. Helmut Marko has been a lightning rod this Formula 1 season. His consistent criticism of Sergio Pérez, as the driver fights to keep his spot with the team for 2024 and beyond, has been a frequent matter of discussion around the sport.
Add in Marko’s inexplicable comments pointing at Pérez’s “cultural heritage” as a reason for his inconsistency — comments which led to a personal apology to the driver — and you have a storm hanging over a team that recently clinched their second-straight Constructor’s Championship.
While Marko dismissed reports that an upcoming meeting would decide his future with the organization, at least one former F1 team boss is speaking out about Marko’s place with the team.
And he is not holding back.
In an interview with PlanetF1 Joan Villadelprat — who spent time as the Team Manager at Benetton Formula among other stops — the former F1 principal and current pundit blasted Marko, urging Red Bull to move on.
“Take Helmut Marko away from the f**king team,” fired Villadelprat.
Every time he opens his mouth, the only thing he’s doing is hammering,” critiqued the former boss. “It’s an area that you don’t need to talk about because, if things don’t go well and things are tough for a driver, you don’t need somebody telling you that you’re useless.”
“When you’re a manager and you have a lot of people working with you, there are various ways of working. You have some people that you need to be behind hammering them.
“That’s the way that you motivate them. But you have people that you don’t need to hammer. When they make a mistake, you pick up the pieces and put them back again. So help him to get back into the place,” continued Villadelprat. “That’s what a manager should be doing. That’s what Christian [Horner] is supposed to be doing. But, at the moment right now, there is no better choice than Checo [Pérez] for Red Bull.”
Villadelprat also outlined how driving alongside Max Verstappen is a difficult task, and would be tough for almost any driver on the grid. During his time at Benetton he was tasked with a similar challenge, finding a teammate for Michael Schumacher.
The challenge of driving alongside a great driver can be too much for some.
“Whoever we put with Michael was destroyed. [Johnny] Herbert was a great driver, but destroyed. [Martin] Brundle was a great driver, destroyed. Same with Nelson Piquet and Riccardo Patrese. Whoever you put with Michael was destroyed,” emphasized Villadelprat.
“Anyone you put next to Fernando Alonso is destroyed. Max destroys anyone next to him. I don’t know, I think part of it is psychological.”
(That reference to Alonso — when taken in conjunction with Lance Stroll’s recent struggles — might be worth exploring down the road, but we digress).
Still, despite the challenges of driving alongside Verstappen, Villadelprat believes that Pérez remains the best choice for Red Bull.
At least right now.
“If I’m Christian Horner, I don’t think there’s anybody else around that can do better than Checo,” he said.
“Maybe Fernando, I think Marko said the same thing. Probably, Max would be happy to do that. But I don’t think there’s any, right now, that can be better than Checo. I’d hang on and grow up Liam Lawson or think more deeply about who you could pinch from another team but, right now, the best choice is still Checo.”
As for what Pérez needs? Villadelprat has an answer there too.
“With a lot of help and a lot of love to bring him security, he’s there.”