Doornbos about Verstappen’s future: ‘Nobody dares to speak out’

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Doornbos about Verstappen's future: 'Nobody dares to speak out'

Red Bull Racing started the 2024 season very strongly, but there was an uneasy situation within the team before the start of the season. Things have now calmed down towards the media, but former Red Bull driver Robert Doornbos believes that the tension behind the scenes can be cut, with Verstappen’s future also at stake.

During Crashing in the kitchen, Doornbos first reflected on Verstappen’s show of power in Japan. The Rotterdammer believes that Verstappen was much more dominant than the result suggested. ‘If you squeeze out the fastest lap on the hard tires three or four laps before the end, then you still have a lot left in the tank. The competition must have really lost sleep over that. This seemed dominant, as it was for Melbourne, but it was much more dominant than we think, because he still has a lot of margin,” says the former driver at Ziggo Sport.

Power struggle behind the scenes

Verstappen may display his power on the circuit, but behind the scenes there is little to be seen of that calm, according to Doornbos. ‘They are first and second in the championship, and have scored a one-two in Japan, with their engine supplier. So you would expect everyone to be euphoric, but top management is fighting behind the scenes. The top management is Christian Horner, Adrian Newey, and Helmut Marko,” the analyst explains. ‘They do not agree with each other, so camps arise. That creates friction behind the scenes.’

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adrian newey helmut marko christian horner max verstappen sergio perez red bull racing f1 gp united states 2022
Is there friction between the big men at Red Bull?

The discussion about the second driver would also play a role. ‘You also have the second chair that is on the market. As Max says: if he keeps driving what he’s driving now, why can’t he just stay? That doesn’t bother me, I have it under control. Christian (Horner, ed.) says: but Sainz is here knocking on the door.

Doornbos also pointed out that Horner congratulated everyone at the pit wall after the race, with the exception of Newey and Marko, who were both standing at the pit wall. Doornbos does not find this surprising. ‘Not when you hear what’s happening behind the scenes. It is Newey who does not want to extend his contract. He now has a contract until the end of 2025. We know that Marko will leave when Max leaves, or vice versa. They are very much attuned to each other. Horner knows that, as boss he simply signed that contract.’

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Because Verstappen links his future with the team to the future of various leaders, his own future would also be at stake. ‘Max and Helmut are very close, because Marko once gave him the chance. If Newey leaves, there will be no future for Max either.’ According to Doornbos, Marko and Newey will both have to stay to keep Verstappen with the team.

Will Mercedes strike?

“If we list this, there are simply discussions with other teams, and I am referring to Mercedes,” Doornbos continues. ‘You just have to hear what they can do and what they want. Mercedes has already written off this year, this year will be nothing. 2025 will be a muddy year in the run-up to 2026, and then I think they will be there again. So it makes sense that Max listens to what Mercedes has to offer. The news is that Max is talking openly with Mercedes, and seeing what they want and what they can do.’

Mercedes team boss Toto Wolff has been showering compliments on Verstappen this year, which seems to indicate that Wolff sees opportunities for the signature of the Limburger. ‘2026 is the year you can start winning. 2025 would be a transition year, but that would mean that you already want to be there. Mercedes is of course doing everything it can to welcome Verstappen. I think it is special that such top performances are delivered, and you are in the lead of the championship, but there is so much friction behind the scenes. No one dares to speak out. Are you in the Horner camp or the Marko camp? That’s stressful.’

Red Bull risks falling apart

“That empire could collapse,” Doornbos says about Red Bull. ‘Horner wants to sign Carlos Sainz because he thinks he can win with it, but then you are a bit arrogant if you think that way, because without Max you are not going to win. In addition, Sainz is more competitive than Pérez, so Sainz causes unrest within that team. Nobody wants Sainz at Red Bull, except Horner. That’s all happening now. I am afraid that due to the trust damaged by Christian Horner, the organization will fall apart and camps will arise. These camps are already emerging. Then people will choose their career.’

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