Join DRAKE at STAKE F1 PARTNER
JEDDAH, SAUDI ARABIA - MARCH 09: Race winner Max Verstappen of the Netherlands and Oracle Red Bull Racing (C), Second placed Sergio Perez of Mexico and Oracle Red Bull Racing (R) and Jerome Lafarge, Chief Designer at Oracle Red Bull Racing (L) celebrate on the podium during the F1 Grand Prix of Saudi Arabia at Jeddah Corniche Circuit on March 09, 2024 in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia. (Photo by Clive Rose/Getty Images)

Marko on the difference between Verstappen and Perez

JEDDAH, SAUDI ARABIA - MARCH 09: Race winner Max Verstappen of the Netherlands and Oracle Red Bull Racing (C), Second placed Sergio Perez of Mexico and Oracle Red Bull Racing (R) and Jerome Lafarge, Chief Designer at Oracle Red Bull Racing (L) celebrate on the podium during the F1 Grand Prix of Saudi Arabia at Jeddah Corniche Circuit on March 09, 2024 in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia. (Photo by Clive Rose/Getty Images)

In the wake of the 2024 Saudi Arabian Grand Prix, Helmut Marko, in his post-race column for Speedweek, gave insight into the difference between the driving abilities of Max Verstappen and Sergio Perez.

The Boys in Blue have made it a one-two in the first two races of the season. Verstappen won both and Perez trailed him. Mission accomplished for Red Bull because no matter how much he has tried, the Mexican has been unable to beat his Dutch counterpart since last year in Baku.

Since then Perez has been lacking around three-tenths of a second in Qualifying pace, and perhaps double that in race pace. As was the case, more or less, at the season-opening Bahrain Grand Prix and a week later in Saudi Arabia.

So what is the difference between the two drivers? Best placed to make the call is Marko with some astute revelations he made about Verstappen and Perez, and their differing styles.

Marko: This year Checo is no longer experimenting

ZANDVOORT, NETHERLANDS - AUGUST 26: Sergio Perez of Mexico and Oracle Red Bull Racing talks with Red Bull Racing Team Consultant Dr Helmut Marko in the garage during qualifying ahead of the F1 Grand Prix of The Netherlands at Circuit Zandvoort on August 26, 2023 in Zandvoort, Netherlands. (Photo by Mark Thompson/Getty Images)

In his post-Saudi GP column on Speedweek, Marko wrote: “Jeddah is a track that Checo really likes. He’s been on pole position here for the last two years, won last year and only lost the win before that because the safety car was deployed at the stupidest time for him.”

“This year Checo is no longer experimenting,” revealed Marko, suggesting the Mexican veteran had been doing so in the past. “He starts with more or less the same basic setup as Max. There are just more nuances in which they setup differently.

“Checo used to be fast with cars that were good-natured. It’s just that good-natured cars are rarely fast. In 2022 he realized that our car was overweight. This gave it a more docile tendency with more understeer and a stable rear end.

“But it wasn’t fast – Ferrari was actually faster in the first half of the season. It was only through strategy and driving errors from Leclerc that things tipped in our favour. Now our car is certainly fast.

“Thanks to his extraordinary talent, Max can cope with a nervous rear-end of a car better than anyone else and that is what makes the difference,” explained Marko.

Double one-two for Red Bull in the first couple of rounds of the season

JEDDAH, SAUDI ARABIA - MARCH 09: Race winner Max Verstappen of the Netherlands and Oracle Red Bull Racing and Second placed Sergio Perez of Mexico and Oracle Red Bull Racing in parc ferme during the F1 Grand Prix of Saudi Arabia at Jeddah Corniche Circuit on March 09, 2024 in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia. (Photo by Clive Rose/Getty Images)

Reflecting on the weekend in Saudi, the Red Bull consultant added: “Last week I expressed concerns that Red Bull Racing could have bigger problems in Jeddah than at the season opener in Bahrain and to a certain extent, this happened. Max’s extraterrestrial qualifying lap, three-tenths lead over Leclerc, concealed this a little.”

Indeed Verstappen lit up Jeddah to claim his 34th pole position start and then cruised to his 56th Grand Prix victory on Saturday night, comfortably ahead of teammate Perez in P2.

But Marko said it was not plain sailing as it appeared: “We had a hard time with the hard tyres in the race. The warm-up took longer and when Max got into traffic and lost tyre temperature, he also got into trouble.

“Our biggest advantage in Bahrain was that our car was so easy on the tyres. This effect was not as noticeable in Jeddah,” added Marko, despite Verstappen winning the race by 13 seconds over Perez and 18 seconds up on Charles Leclerc in P3 for Ferrari and best of the rest.

Read Marko’s insights into the B-Team drivers, Yuki Tsunoda and Daniel Ricciardo, Jeddah fortunes here>>>