While certain sectors of the media roundly criticised Sergio Perez for his underperformance relative to Red Bull teammate Max Verstappen this past Formula 1 season, the Mexican veteran was defended by team advisor Helmut Marko.
While Perez got his season off to a good start. A couple of impressive wins in Jeddah and Baku, did not set the tone of what was to come. In fact, he never won again after those two races. Instead, it was Max who ultimately took 19 of a possible 22 victories. Carlos Sainz winning for Ferrari in Singapore, denied Red Bull a clean sweep of all races this season.
However, for the first time in their history, Red Bull drivers finished one-two in the F1 WDC with Verstappen and Perez doing the job not even Sebastian Vettel and Mark Webber achieved when the team last dominated the sport a decade ago.
Speaking to OE24, Marko reflected on RBR’s record-breaking 2023 F1 season: “There were many wonderful victories and also world championship titles. Something like this year is unique. Who knows if this will be possible again?
“We have a great car and a highly motivated team. But the crucial point for this dominance, and more and more people are slowly getting it, is the Max Verstappen factor. Sergio Perez has been criticised, even though he is a top driver. He’s just unlucky that he has a talent of the century as a teammate,” explained Marko.
Marko: Unfortunately he who gave us this vision was no longer allowed to experience it
The Austrian former F1 driver and Le Mans winner, also paid tribute to Red Bull’s founder and passionate F1 patriarch, the late Dietrich Mateschitz: “Without Mateschitz, none of this would have been possible. I spoke to Max shortly before and asked him if he had ever dreamed of this. He just shook his head in disbelief and said: ‘Never, never!’
“It’s a shame that Dietrich can no longer experience this performance from the team, especially from Max,” added Marko, of Mateschitz, who passed away in October 2022, with Verstappen heading to a second title at the time.
The 26-year-old Dutch ace has now three F1 Titles under his belt, with more sure to come predicts Marko: “I also trust Max with that. He will likely still win more F1 world championships. I just don’t think there will be a season like this one, ending the year with 21 wins in 22 races.”
The obvious question concerning the huge advantage Red Bull enjoyed with their car (Max a lot more than Checo) this year is: Why not?
Marko reckoned: “It would be a dream to achieve this again. But let’s see whether all 24 races can actually happen. As is well known, Imola was cancelled this year due to a natural disaster. When I look at how things are going in the world, we have to be very optimistic that everything will go ahead as planned.”
A lifelong friend and confidante of Mateschitz, 80-year-old Marko was asked about his own plans for the future, he replied: “After the season there will be a general discussion about what I do. It’s common for people to discuss what’s going to happen in the future after a season, that’s how it’s always been.
“I have the strength to do that. In Las Vegas, I was in surprisingly good shape and coped better than most,” insisted Marko, who has been on Red Bull’s remarkable journey in F1 long before they made their Grand Prix debut at the 2005 Australian Grand Prix as a constructor and, of course, ever since.