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Horner denies Marko’s claims of “cunning” plan to oust him from Red Bull F1 team

Red Bull Formula 1 boss Christian Horner has rubbished accusations of a “cunning” plan inside the team to try to get rid of motorsport advisor Helmut Marko.

Christian Horner, Team Principal, Red Bull Racing, Helmut Marko, Consultant, Red Bull Racing

Photo by: Zak Mauger / Motorsport Images

After another weekend of high drama at the Saudi Arabian Grand Prix amid the power battle going on inside Red Bull, it emerged that Marko’s place at the squad could be under threat.

He revealed ahead of qualifying that there was a chance he could be suspended following the event, amid allegations that he had been involved in leaks to the media regarding the investigation surrounding Horner’s behaviour.

But following talks with Red Bull managing director Oliver Mintzlaff on the morning of the race in Jeddah, it was made clear that Marko had not been involved in any illicit behaviour and would be continuing.

Speaking shortly before the race to Austrian broadcaster ORF, Marko hit out at claims he had been a part of the leaks – as he hinted that the way things played out in Saudi Arabia was a deliberate effort to bring him down.

Asked about the accusation of being a leak, Marko said: “Absolute rubbish. I'm really happy when I have my iPhone halfway under control.

“I haven't seen this report or any of these chats. I deliberately stayed out of it. To associate me with it was almost like a planned operation, as I realised. ‘Cunning’, as [Niki] Lauda would say.”

Helmut Marko, Consultant, Red Bull Racing

Helmut Marko, Consultant, Red Bull Racing

Photo by: Michael Potts / Motorsport Images

It is unclear who Marko feels was moving against him to stir trouble up, but Horner has insisted that the events that took place behind the scenes in Saudi Arabia were nothing to do with him nor the F1 squad.

“I think the rumour about suspension was as news to the team as it was to anybody else,” explained Horner. “We were quite surprised to hear that.

“Helmut is a contractor to Red Bull GmbH, so it was an issue between them. We weren't party or part of that discussion.

“I've known Helmut since 1996, and he's played an important role over the years. That role has evolved over the years. I've known him a very, very long time.

“Coming up to 81 years of age, he's still obviously motivated about Formula 1, which is a positive thing.”

The developments in Saudi Arabia were fascinating because Marko's risk of his exit prompted a strong line of defence from Max Verstappen, who said he would be unlikely to stay at the team if his ally departed.

Max Verstappen, Red Bull Racing, 1st position, Sergio Perez, Red Bull Racing, 2nd position, with Helmut Marko, Consultant, Red Bull Racing and Christian Horner, Team Principal, Red Bull Racing

Max Verstappen, Red Bull Racing, 1st position, Sergio Perez, Red Bull Racing, 2nd position, with Helmut Marko, Consultant, Red Bull Racing and Christian Horner, Team Principal, Red Bull Racing

Photo by: Zak Mauger / Motorsport Images

Asked if Verstappen’s backing influenced Red Bull’s decision, Horner said: “There has been no decision-making process around Helmut, so I am not quite sure where the rumour has permeated from. But it is not something I’ve been involved in.”

While Marko and Horner do not agree on everything, the pair do bring contrasting strengths to the Red Bull team that have helped make it so strong.

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Horner did not foresee any issue with Marko remaining in place, despite the difficulties of the current situation.

“My relationship with Helmut is no issue. I think that he's always outspoken, but that's Helmut,” added Horner.

“Everybody has a role to play no matter what that role is. I think this team has been incredibly successful, and it has had tremendous ability for a long period of time. That has been one of the keys to our success.”

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