Earlier this year bad blood between Red Bull and McLaren boiled over when the Woking outfit poached Toro Rosso designer James Key and announced the deal before it was cast in stone, so no surprise when Helmut Marko was asked to review the season past he aimed a torpedo them.
First, the Red Bull motorsport consultant was reminded how not long ago McLaren boasted they had the best chassis on the grid, until this year when – after years in the wilderness with Honda – they bolted on Renault engines to their cars expecting to match similarly powered Red Bulls, only to find that they fell way short.
Asked to explain the deficit, Marko could not resist a sarcastic swipe, “We lap McLaren twice in a normal race with the same engine. So what do you think it is?”
“Of course, if you only look at downforce – you just have to look at how [McLaren] went the previous season at Spa: full wing, full downforce. Of course, they were the fastest in the corners.”
“But on the straights… if we set-up our car that way, we would never achieve our results. You have to make a compromise. The combined lap time is what counts, not the cornering speed.”
While McLaren ditched Honda, in stepped Red Bull with their junior team as ‘guinea pigs’ ahead of a full Red Bull Honda partnership next season which comes with its own possible pitfalls.
Marko acknowledged, “Definitely there is a certain risk factor for us, Honda has to catch up, they must work aggressively, but that does not deter us. I don’t think we can count on three engines per season like Mercedes and Ferrari.”
“But Max and Daniel have shown a few times what is possible even when we started from 18th or 19th and in two or three laps we were already near the front again.”
With regards to highly-rated Key moving to head up McLaren’s technical department, Marko said, “When you discuss something and then we have to hear it through press releases…”
“There is still no solution but, in Abu Dhabi, I met Mansour Ojjeh, with whom we will sit down and sort this out because both sides want a solution, maybe we can succeed,” he added.
McLaren had one of the worst cars on the grid last year, only the tenacity of departed Fernando Alonso earned them some respect and sixth in the F1 World Championship standings.
Zak Brown and his management team pinpointed Key as the saviour to the shambles that is their technical department but will have to wait for the privilege of his services before he embarks on unlapping McLaren who are still a long way down on the blue cars.
Until they get back to the sharp end, they will have to tolerate humiliating barbs from the Doctor until next season when Honda performance will rev him up more or render him quiet.