Formula 1 | Dr. Helmut Marko: “Verstappen is ready for the World Cup”

Dr. Helmut Marko, Toto Wolff gave you a new nickname in Portugal. Should we now also talk to you with “Mr. Grumpy “address?
(smiles) That’ll pass me by. Mercedes and we are technically on a relatively equal level. If we turn into the psychological, then I would expect a little more level there as well.

Has the mind calmed down again at Red Bull after Portugal? After all, you accused the Mercedes customers of driving for Mercedes in qualifying …
You have to see it in context. Max is on his fastest lap. And when such a radio message comes, then it is clear that one is annoyed about it. Sebastian was decisively in the way on the last corner, and that didn’t help to improve our position either. And if you get angry, you have to be able to say that too.

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So you continue to believe that the radio message to Norris would have been different if Lewis Hamilton had appeared in the rear-view mirror instead of Verstappen?
That would have been said: do Hamilton a favor (stay serious).

Marko: "Verstappen is ready for the World Cup"

Dr. Helmut Marko

What is your general conclusion after the first three races?
We had three races and we won one of them. Of course we are not satisfied with that. We lost a race because we exceeded the track limits. Sure, that’s an offense. But you also have to question whether these rules make sense. That’s what Mercedes people say: Why do you draw lines when there is enough space? What bothers me most of all is the lack of constancy in punishment. Sometimes there is five seconds, sometimes ten seconds, sometimes a drive-through penalty. Basically, the question arises for me: is it necessary to have track limits? No. What I understand: It takes time to adapt the racetracks. Summary: We are underperformed, all in all we have the faster car. With Hamilton, Mercedes has a not overpowering, but incredibly strong driver who can go beyond himself. If he sees an opportunity, then he takes it. We can win if everything goes perfectly, but that wasn’t the case.

How does Verstappen deal with it? For the first time he is in the position that he has a real chance of the world title, but is still very young.
We’re celebrating his five-year anniversary at Red Bull in Barcelona. In the meantime, as a person and as a driver, he has matured so much that he has the strength and the nerves to help shape and fight such a title fight. Max is ripe for the title.

Still, he was recently criticized for his small mistakes.
Hamilton also makes mistakes, you saw that at the restart in Portugal. The consequences of his mistakes are less – like in Imola, that can be described as luck at most. One thing is certain: Hamilton is even more hardened. He can wait for his chance. Max, it has to be said, is rather temperamental in character. Or to put it another way: more impatient. This is currently showing something in favor of Hamilton.

Are you talking to him about it?
Of course we’re talking about the races. Immediately afterwards, it is too charged because it is not yet accessible for such conversations. But when it is clearly evident that things could have been done differently, then he fully understands. That is also discussed, not publicly and at the right time.

But isn’t his ambition a good sign too?
Yes, and that is also the DNA of Red Bull Racing. We are a passionate racing team in which the fight, the challenge is paramount. A driver like Max Verstappen fits in perfectly. But you still have to tame that so that you also keep an eye on the World Cup.

Where does your car have advantages over Mercedes and how long will you take part in the development race before you focus on 2022?
We had three racetracks that cannot be described as characteristic. Bahrain was exceptional because of the temperature, Imola because of the rain and in Portugal because of the track surface, which builds up very little grip. In Barcelona we come to a characteristically normal racetrack with normal temperature for the first time. So far our advantage has been the qualifying lap. In the race, depending on the type of tire, the pendulum swung towards us and towards Mercedes. We want to win this World Cup, of course. But we want to have a World Cup-capable car again in 2022. And we have to manage this balancing act. At the moment everything is going according to plan, the development of the car continues, the plan is until the summer break. Until then, we’ll see what the situation is like. The budget limit makes it more difficult because we are limited by resources, but that also applies to Mercedes. I assume the attitude will be the same because Lewis is chasing his eighth title. At Mercedes you won’t say: We’ll stop development and everything will go to 2022.

Marko: "Verstappen is ready for the World Cup"

Lewis Hamilton in a duel with Max Verstappen

Do you also feel an obligation towards sport to finally break the dominance of Mercedes?
We aim to become world champions with Max Verstappen. But: Mercedes built an incredibly robust and powerful engine. That was the success factor for a long time. Now we’re on roughly the same level as Honda. There is a peaceful atmosphere of optimism in the whole team, a passion can be felt – even during training. And the ratings were very, very good worldwide.

How helpful is your experience in the title fight from your time with Sebastian Vettel?
95 percent of the people who won the world title with Vettel are still there. That means they can handle the pressure. Our pit stops also show that. If we are there for more than two seconds, it is already slow for us.

Are the mind games with Mercedes an incentive or are you distracting?
We defend our positions and we also express our opinion. Sometimes we have the feeling that Toto worries too much about us or about Formula 1 in general. It goes without saying that we pay attention to our advantage. The fact that the choice of words between two Austrians sometimes becomes a bit more explosive has to be seen as a national matter (smiles).

In any case, it doesn’t harm the entertainment factor …
That is not what we want. As Red Bull Racing, we also have a different DNA than Mercedes. On the other hand: We have the young challenger, Mercedes the seven-time champion, which can be explosive when the Crown Prince wants to overthrow the old king.

Marko: "Verstappen is ready for the World Cup"

Sergio Perez

Both teams have two other drivers, Sergio Perez and Valtteri Bottas. What is the role of the two?
In the last three races it has become quite clear that only Hamilton and Verstappen can fight for the World Cup. Perez is still having difficulties getting used to it, but he is getting stronger and stronger. Overall and in terms of consistency, he is simply missing the last two tenths on Max. Bottas is not that strong at the crucial moment and he also has weaker days, as you saw in Imola. And at racing pace, as you could also see in Portugal, Hamilton Bottas put back in his place. Bottom line: It’s only the two who are eligible for the World Cup.

Was it the right decision for Perez??
Yes. He has room for improvement and he is also improving.

Under what conditions would you issue a stable order?
At the moment it is still too early to direct the stables. Should it come to that, it will be done under fair rules.

Another topic: Red Bull will also be an engine manufacturer from 2022. What does that mean for you
It’s an incredible story emotionally. We took over the Jaguar team 15 years ago. The aim was to win one or the other race. We would never have dreamed that we would become world champions four times. With the withdrawal of Honda, the question arose: what do we do now? Becoming a customer team at Ferrari or Renault doesn’t sound that attractive and it isn’t. You only get second choice and when building the chassis you have to rely on what you get from the engine manufacturer. Now we have everything in one house, so we have a situation like Ferrari, where chassis and engine development are united on the same site. An almost unimaginable dream becomes a reality. We are very grateful to our owners because that also requires financial commitment. But we are right on schedule. In the first step, we will build and use the Honda engines from 2022 to 2024. And when the new regulations come in 2025 – where it is agreed that the costs have to be drastically reduced, which then also involves many standard parts – that means: It should also be possible for a not absolute engine specialist with experience to design such an engine.

What will the engine look like?
The key data are clear: It will be a V6 engine with turbo, 50 percent of the power comes from the combustion engine, the rest from the electric motor.

Your favorite competitor, Toto Wolff, brought you in touch with a brand from the Volkswagen Group. What is it?
He made a very rude remark that we would get the patent rights from Honda and pass them on to VW. This is complete nonsense, it would be unfair and it is not planned. As long as the current regulations apply, we are solely responsible for this engine. But that we are open to partnerships in the future, be it for the namesake of the drive or more; all of this is possible and desirable so that our costs are kept within reasonable limits. Whether this could be the manufacturer mentioned or someone else is completely open at this point in time.

Her former driver Sebastian Vettel is currently only behind in the Aston Martin. How do you rate his situation?
I am only an outside observer. In any case, I cannot understand the outcry of the team against this rule change over winter (cut underbody; d. Ed.). Nine teams can cope with it, Mercedes even wins races with the low pitch of the rear end. The procedure was compliant with the rules. Aston Martin should focus on making the car better. But that’s Aston Martin thing. Vettel had two bad races. Qualifying was better in Portugal, but he had no chance again in the race. Stroll shows that it’s down to the car.

Should Sebastian have taken the break you suggested last year?
Sebastian is over 30 and a seasoned personality. He needs to know what he’s doing. That was his decision. Let’s see what will come next.

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But as an old Vettel intimate, your heart must bleed.
It’s been bleeding for a long time. I am not entitled to any other statement without detailed knowledge. One can only hope that it will get better.

You are known as a rookie scout. How do you rate the first three races of your own newcomer Yuki Tsunoda and Mick Schumacher?
Tsunoda made a very good debut in Bahrain, got high-spirited in Imola with a completely unnecessary crash in Q1 – with a car that was easily fit for Q3. He improved in the race but was out of step. His speed is impressive. Also his maturity and his confidence. We are generally very satisfied with him. In terms of speed, Schumacher was more or less the same as Mazepin in Formula 2. And I have to say: He has gradually improved and Mazepin is fully under control. It becomes more consistent from race to race. I am pleasantly surprised.

A word about Tsunoda: Isn’t cocky better than never looking for the limit?
Yes, we love those drivers who let it rip. Better to throw a car away than ten races in which you don’t go to the limit.

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