Red Bull Formula 1 advisor Helmut Marko has hit back at comments from Mercedes non-executive chairman Niki Lauda about Max Verstappen’s recently-signed contract, saying it is “far from” the worth of Lewis Hamilton and Sebastian Vettel’s deals.
Verstappen put pen to paper on a new three-year deal at Red Bull in October, surprising the F1 paddock amid links to seats with Mercedes and Ferrari for 2019.
The deal for the youngest race winner in the sport’s history was rumored to be one of the most lucrative in F1, with Lauda jibing that Mercedes could have saved Red Bull some money by holding talks with Verstappen.
“We never offered [Verstappen] a contract,” Lauda told Red Bull’s in-house TV channel, Servus TV.
“I have a good relationship with Helmut, 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 [Verstappen’s] father and signed.
“If we had talked before, you would have saved money. We never talked to him about money.”
Marko responded by saying Mercedes was powerless to reject four-time champion Hamilton’s demands ahead of upcoming talks, and stressed Verstappen’s contract was not in the same realm.
“Thanks for trying to help us save money. We can’t help you, you have no alternative for Hamilton, you have to pay him what he demands,” Marko said.
“We guaranteed that our most important people are committed until 2020 and all this convinced him.
“Of course, he used the chance to get a salary rise, it’s within reason.
“But he’s far from Hamilton or Sebastian Vettel. When he wins championships he can reach that level.”