Helmut Marko shed light on how Formula 1 teams work under the budget cap, while warning that the sport must not become an accountant’s world championship.
With F1 cost control regulations in place – granting teams about $150-million (depending on how many races etc) to use during a season campaign – means the ‘no-expenses-spared-throw-money-at-it’ ethos of the past is gone.
These days every dime spent has to be accounted for as per the FIA F1 regulations and that comes with an all-new band of players – the Accountants.
To cater for this, speaking to Motorsport-Total, Marko revealed how Red Bull are tackling the new era: “Our finance department has been expanded significantly. In the past, the engineers needed to only say how much they needed and if it was beyond the budget, only approval from head office in Salzburg was required.
“Now it’s the case that the cooperation with our accountants first determines the updates and the extent thereof. But it’s not the case that the accountant says, from then on there can be no more updates.
“We in the team management look at it and say we still need an update, then that [expense] has to be saved from somewhere else,” explained Marko.
With the budget cap, F1 teams are expected to scale down but Marko’s team have other plans: “We have cut people at Red Bull Racing, but we still have Red Bull Technology.
“The people will then be moved and given other tasks. We have the hypercar, we are in America’s Cup. There are some projects where we are accommodating staff which you don’t want to lose.”
“It’s a process where the FIA learns, where we learn. I hope it doesn’t degenerate into an accountant’s championship,” warned Marko.
Porsche – who Dr Helmut won the 1971 Le Mans 24 Hours with as a driver – and Red Bull are to become F1 partners
Provided the FIA’s soon-to-be-released 2026 rules for F1 tick all the boxes for Porsche, they will finally be in the top flight for a proper crack with Red Bull. Expect announcements on both fronts, soon.
Marko, now 79, and Porsche have history, the Austrian winning the 1971 Le Mans 24 Hours with Gijs van Lennep, in one of the fastest Le Mans performances of all time, they recorded an average speed of 222.304 kilometres per hour in their Porsche 917.
This at a time when motorsport was at its most treacherous, drivers killed on just about every race weekend, and many of Marko’s rivals never lived to be old men. And indeed an eye injury he sustained during the 1972 French Grand Prix ended his career as a racing driver.
Recalling that era when he drove for Porsche, Marko said of the team he drove for 50 years ago: “I had a relationship with some of the people involved and with Ferdinand Piëch that was based on respect.
“Back then the conditions were different. For example: In Daytona, I crashed into the concrete wall at 300 kph because the wheel came loose. The problem had been known for several races, but it recurred. I get out, luckily I’m okay. I sprint to the box in anger and made my opinion clear to Mr Piëch.
“His answer: Don’t you know that it’s a 24-hour race and you’re supposed to bring the car to the pits! I was really taken aback but those were the conditions prevailing at the time. I haven’t had much to do with Porsche since then,” added Marko.
Under his watch, Red Bull have backed numerous drivers on the ladder to F1 through their young driver management, with the likes of Sebastian, Vettel, Daniel Ricciardo, Carlos Sainz, Pierre Gasly and Max Verstappen products of the programme who are established stars of F1.
As well as many drivers, who had a chance at the top flight, were deemed not World Champ material before being ditched, only to go on and make a name for themselves in other categories.