Sebastian Vettel said in an interview that the first telephone call he made, after hearing the news that Ferrari had no intention on negotiating an extension with him, was to non-other than Red Bull advisor Helmut Marko. It’s no secret that the pair is getting along well and is in regular contact. However, the German wasn’t hoping on partnering Max Verstappen at Red Bull but instead wanted advice on the driver market situation for 2021. And if there’s a man that knows ins and outs of the driver’s market, that man is Helmut Marko.
“I didn’t want him to act rashly, but to wait because it was clear to me that fundamental things would change in the driver market for 2022,” Marko explained. “I wanted him to still be on the market at the right time so he could take the best possible offer. For example, I was sure that there would be a vacancy at Mercedes then but not only there, but also at Red Bull.”
However, the German ended up going to Aston Martin where things look very promising at the moment: “Aston Martin was very tempting,” Marko said. “The name is cult, the close cooperation with Mercedes promised a sporting perspective. I can understand him, even if I personally would have waited.”
If indeed Sebastian was to decide to wait or have a sabbatical, would he be considered a top choice for replacing Alex Albon after British-Thai driver failed to close the gap to his teammate? “At the time, we firmly assumed that Alex Albon would develop positively so that he would also be able to drive alongside Max Verstappen in 2021, that’s what I told Sebastian.
Reflecting on their mid-season decisions Marko admits they might have made a mistake: “When Ferrari gave him notice, we had no place left for 2021,” Marko said. “Unfortunately, we were wrong. When we had to act, Sebastian was no longer available because he had made a long-term commitment to Aston Martin. Therefore, Sergio Perez was the logical decision for us.”
Furthermore, Marko had no concerns about the german’s poor run in 2020: “It was clear that Sebastian would have a difficult season with Ferrari. Above all, I didn’t want a four-time World Champion to say goodbye to F1 like that. Not as a friend, and not as a Red Bull man.” concluded the Austrian.