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Red Bull: “No risk, no fun” attitude foundation for Verstappen F1 success

Verstappen ended Mercedes’ title dominance of F1’s turbo hybrid era last year, when he clinched the drivers’ title after a last-lap overtaking move on Lewis Hamilton at the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix.

It marked the culmination of many years of conviction from Red Bull about Verstappen’s talent, as it was convinced from early on that he had the talent needed to be champion.

And, with Red Bull coincidentally having been vying with Mercedes to sign Verstappen in his junior career, its motorsport advisor Helmut Marko has hailed the different attitude the energy drinks company took to the situation.

Speaking in a Dutch book Formula Max which has been published by Autosport’s colleagues from the Dutch Motorsport.com site, Marko said Red Bull approached things in a way Mercedes could not.

“Of course we knew that Max was talking to Mercedes as well, but with Mercedes he wouldn’t have come to Formula 1 so quickly,” said Marko about that period when his team and its German manufacturer rival were both speaking to Verstappen.

“They don’t take those risks with a newcomer. But my plan to sign him and put him into Formula 1 straight away wasn’t to outdo Mercedes. It was simply because I saw that he was ready for Formula 1 and that turned out to be the case.

“I would say in general: Red Bull is different compared to Mercedes, we have much more of a ‘no risk, no fun’ mentality.”

Max Verstappen, Red Bull Racing RB16B Photo by: Erik Junius

While promoting Verstappen to F1 when he was aged 17 drew criticism at the time, Marko said Red Bull never doubted that it made the right decision.

“The criticism was to be expected, but in all honesty it was a calculated risk,” he said. “We gave Max all the appropriate tests at Toro Rosso within the regulations.

“He made his first FP1 appearance at one of the most difficult circuits of the calendar, which was Suzuka, and it was somewhere good to see how he would deal with such a difficult track.

“All in all it was a very good preparation for his first F1 season. Of course, it’s always a risk because drivers who are successful in junior categories don’t necessarily have to be successful in Formula 1.

“But during the conversation I had with him, I was convinced that he was ahead of his time. Both physically and mentally he was strong enough for F1. We never doubted our decision.

“Max had a more experienced team-mate at Toro Rosso with Carlos Sainz [Jr], he had much more experience in the junior series, but Max immediately started at the same level.”

Verstappen’s progress in F1 has been rapid, and Marko says the Dutchman is a vastly different driver now to how he was in his early years with both Toro Rosso and Red Bull.

“He has matured,” he explained. “The difference is that, for example, if we had problems in free practice this year [2021], he stayed calm.

“In previous years he would explode or rant in the pitbox. Now he knows that he can’t change it and the engineers can’t change it either. So he is much more concentrating on the next session or his next chance.

“The impatience he had before was also visible in the races from time to time, for example when lapped cars didn’t get out of the way. He definitely learned that over time.”

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