Lauda mocks Marko over Verstappen deal


It's fair to say that when Max Verstappen signed on the dotted line for Red Bull in late October, extending his contract until the end of 2020, many were somewhat surprised.

Surprised not so much that the young sensation had opted to remain with Red Bull but that he hadn't waited a little longer to see how things play out in the driver market next year when a number of significant contracts come to an end and also Red Bull's engine plans post-2018 when Renault is due to pull the plug on its contract with the Austrian team.

Appearing together on Red Bull's Servus TV, fellow Austrian's Niki Lauda and Helmut Marko discussed Verstappen's decision, the Mercedes man taunting his countryman by suggesting that Red Bull was desperate to retain the youngster amidst rumours linking him with Mercedes.

Aware that Valtteri Bottas was on a further one-year deal that would keep him at Brackley until the end of 2018, many believe Red Bull were spooked after it was discovered that Jos Verstappen had visited Toto Wolff in the Mercedes motorhome at Monza. While this was subsequently claimed to have been nothing more than a social meeting, the get together - and being seen to have had said get together - had the desired effect.

Asked if there had been any talks with a view to signing Verstappen, Lauda said: "We never offered him a contract."

"Officially... yes," responded Marko.

"I have a good relationship with Helmut," said Lauda. "We usually share an airplane... but when he is getting stubborn, and thinks that something could be taken away from him, he immediately signs a contract. He went to Austin with Max father and signed.

"I tell you, if we had talked before, you would have saved money," he smiled, turning to Marko. "We never talked to him about money."

"Let's put it this way," responded Marko. "No offer... thanks... thanks for trying to help us save money. We don't help you.

"But you have no alternative for Hamilton," he added. "You have to pay him what he demands."

"Alright, I have no objections," laughed Lauda.

Asked to expand on the negotiations with Verstappen, Marko said: "We introduced him to our plans for the future. We guaranteed that our most important people are committed until 2020, and that we have an alternative in terms of engine supply. This is no secret.

"All this convinced him," he continued. "Of course, he used the chance to get a salary rise... it's understandable.

"He is far from Hamilton or Vettel," he added, in terms of pay-scale. "When he wins championships, he can reach that level. This is no secret."

"When he becomes a world champion he can get the same like Hamilton?" asked Lauda. "You will pay him like we do?"

"For Formula 1 proportions, we are on a relatively low level in terms of fixed salary," said Marko. "But we have good bonuses."

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Published: 22/12/2017
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