SPIELBERG, Austria -- Helmut Marko has warned Carlos Sainz not to "bite the hand which feeds you" after his comments about his future, suggesting the Spaniard is "confused" about his contractual status with Red Bull.
On Thursday in Austria Sainz said it is "unlikely" he will remain at Toro Rosso for a fourth season next year, with the route to Red Bull seemingly blocked by Daniel Ricciardo and Max Verstappen. That was met with a frustrated response by senior Red Bull management on Friday, with team boss Christian Horner saying Sainz's comments were "disingenuous" as the company funded much of his junior career before elevating him to Formula One.
Horner also insisted Sainz is under contract for another season with Toro Rosso, something Red Bull advisor Marko -- the man who oversees the company's famous driver programme -- agrees with.
"I think he's a bit confused," he told Sky Sports News. "I can see it in his driving. He's made some silly mistakes this season already.
"The contract is crystal clear. You know in Austria we say 'You don't bite the hands which feeds you'. And it was Mr Mateschitz and me who pushed Sainz into Toro Rosso. Nobody else would give him a chance.
"We sent him a letter saying that we take the option, and as far as I know, and as long as I've been in Red Bull, the driver doesn't decide what they're doing with the contract. It's up to the boss, and he makes the decisions.
"I think he should focus on driving. The last couple of races, Kvyat always outqualified him. I didn't speak with him yet, so maybe it's a big misunderstanding between Spanish, English and German, or so!"
When asked if Sainz was frustrated by the situation, he replied: "First he should deliver. He should use what he has to the maximum."
Marko suggested much of the rumours of Sainz moving to another team are being fuelled by his father, Carlos Sainz Sr, the former World Rallying champion.
"I told him last year, when Ferrari is coming, we can talk. But I met Gino [Rosato] last Saturday, and [Maurizio] Arrivabene, they didn't mention anything that they are going for Sainz. That's maybe the father who's dreaming more. The father is here, he talks to anybody who wants to listen. It's always a funny situation."
Toro Rosso team boss Franz Tost believes Sainz should be loyal to Red Bull.
"It's not a decision from Carlos Sainz," Tost said. "He has a Red Bull contract and Red Bull decides what he will do in the future.
"I'm a bit confused about this discussion at this stage of the year because Red Bull has paid and financed the complete career of Carlos. It paid for his BMW season, Formula Renault then Formula 3, GP3, 3.5 and three years in F1.
"Why Red Bull should give him away now to any other opponent? Sometimes loyalty should play an important game.''