Helmut Marko believes that, in Max Verstappen, Red Bull have the best driver on the Formula 1 grid and, that the Dutch ace is simply better than teammate Sergio Perez.
Whether he acknowledges it or not, Perez is the clear number two driver at Red Bull – Verstappen’s team – simply because the two-time F1 World Champion is quicker than the Mexican veteran.
A fact that Red Bull consultant, Helmut Marko, makes no effort to hide with some harsh realities during an interview with SportBild: “Checo can certainly win a race or two but at the moment I don’t see that he can challenge Max for a whole season. In general, I don’t see anyone with the same abilities currently able to do this.”
Earlier in the season, critics of the team suggest that the Red Bull RB18 was evolved to suit Verstappen’s driving style as opposed to Perez’s, which Makro scoffed at: “Of course that’s nonsense. The main problem was the car was overweight. You saw in the early stages of the season that Max was as fast as Perez in a car that didn’t suit his driving style. If the car suits him, he’s half a second faster.”
With three F1 titles bagged in two years, Red Bull will not rest on their laurels according to Marko: “We have room for improvement in terms of reliability. In the first three races, we retired three times due to a technical issue. And in Brazil, the set-up was wrong. We had an exceptional season, but not everything was perfect and we still need a perfect day to beat Mercedes and Ferrari.”
Marko: In 2023, Ferrari will be strong but Mercedes will be stronger
Looking ahead to 2023, the Doctor predicted: “As a whole, especially with a driver like Lewis Hamilton, he’s still a top driver, Mercedes will be very strong. Although Ferrari also has a very good driver in [Charles] Leclerc but he still makes mistakes.
“Mercedes fought their way to us over the year. Although they are not yet at the eye of the needle, they have more time in the wind tunnel to develop the car. I’m not too worried, we’re on the right track for 2023 and, in Max, we have the best driver in the field.”
Some suggest that by re-hiring Daniel Ricciardo as Red Bull reserve, after the Australian was ousted from McLaren a year earlier than expected, the pressure has mounted on Perez despite denials from Christian Horner that the move is a threat to Checo.
Marko described Ricciardo’s role while explaining why Mick Schumacher, ousted by Haas, was not in consideration to be the team’s reserve: No we haven’t [considered Mick] because he’s always been part of the Ferrari program. That’s why he wasn’t interesting to us.
“Especially since our reserve driver takes part in many sponsor events in the USA. Ricciardo is exactly the right person with his profile and image for that,” added Marko.
Finally, Marko spoke about the future of Red Bull in the wake of founder Dietrich Mateschitz passing earlier this year: “Our success speaks for itself. There is no need to worry that Red Bull will disappear from Formula 1 in the near future, we are far from done with our mission. We want to win more races and titles!”