Marko: Mercedes and Ferrari try get our top people including Newey

Formula One World Championship, Rd16, Korean Grand Prix, Race, Korea International Circuit, Yeongam, South Korea, Sunday 14 October 2012.

World champions Red Bull have not denied reports Ferrari made yet another move to poach ace designer Adrian Newey.

“We’re used to these permanent poaching attempts from both sides,” Helmut Marko told Bild am Sonntag, referring not just to Ferrari. “Mercedes and Ferrari don’t just try to get our top employees; they are trying at every level.”

However Newey declared two years ago, “They’re a great team and just like many drivers end up succumbing to Ferrari’s romance, engineers aren’t completely callous, but I won’t be going to Ferrari. One reason is that my family [with four children] is in England.”

“And being involved with Red Bull from the start has been hugely rewarding. I have no desire to work for any-one else in F1,” added Newey.

In reality, Red Bull and Ferrari have a more immediate problem even than a tug-of-war over Formula 1’s most sought-after and highly paid engineer.

At the Circuit de Catalunya, a layout expected to play into the hands of Mercedes’ rivals, Lewis Hamilton was a clear second faster than any other qualifying pretender.

F1 Grand Prix of Malaysia - Practice

Not only that, world champion Sebastian Vettel is having one of the worst grand prix weekends of his formerly glittering Formula 1 career.

Despite having switched to a new RB10 chassis for the Barcelona weekend, the German has struggled simply to get his new Red Bull to run in Spain.

“It’s getting a bit boring,” Vettel said on Saturday. “We’ve had all sorts of problems this year.”

Boring perhaps, but the quadruple title winner is at least retaining his sense of humour. Asked if his 2014 travails are a good test of his mettle, Vettel replied: “Well, I haven’t been tested on the track much so far!

“If you compare my salary with the number of laps I’ve done, then I am the best paid driver,” he commented to Auto Motor und Sport.

Vettel sat out most of Friday and his car also broke down in Qualifying. he added mischievously, “I’d say I’m well rested for the race.”

Gerhard Berger, once Vettel’s boss at Toro Rosso, also thinks that motivational issues may be creeping into the 26-year-old’s struggles.

Formula One World Championship, Rd5, Spanish Grand Prix, Qualifying, Barcelona, Spain, Saturday 10 May 2014.

“Firstly he knows that he has no chance with this Renault engine,” said the former McLaren and Ferrari driver. “And certainly after always being at the front for four years and giving everything, in this situation you could find that your batteries are getting low.”

But Red Bull’s Marko thinks the that real problem is simply Mercedes’ increasing dominance, “We are one second from them. In the race we won’t see Mercedes. We are making small steps forward, but so are they. We need a quantum leap, otherwise for us the year is over.”

It is believed Red Bull wants to introduce substantial fuel and engine modifications in time for its home race in Austria next month, but this might require a relaxation of the engine ‘freeze’ rules.

“The rules are clear, and we stick to them,” Mercedes Formula 1 Chairman Niki Lauda, clearly ruling out cooperation to help struggling Renault, insisted.

So for now, Marko has admitted that he is hoping for Lewis Hamilton and Nico Rosberg’s lonely battle at the front to come to blows.

Lauda, meanwhile, is taking delight in Mercedes’ current situation, “I was really concerned that our lead would be smaller on an aerodynamic track like Barcelona. But we are even further ahead of Red Bull than before.” (GMM.)

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