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MELBOURNE, AUSTRALIA - MARCH 20: Max Verstappen of the Netherlands and Oracle Red Bull Racing, Sergio Perez of Mexico and Oracle Red Bull Racing, Yuki Tsunoda of Japan and Visa Cash App RB and Daniel Ricciardo of Australia and Visa Cash App RB walk on the beach during previews ahead of the F1 Grand Prix of Australia at Albert Park Circuit on March 20, 2024 in Melbourne, Australia. (Photo by Mark Thompson/Getty Images) // Getty Images / Red Bull Content Pool // SI202403200974 // Usage for editorial use only //

Marko: We’re puzzled by why Ricciardo is slower than Tsunoda

MELBOURNE, AUSTRALIA - MARCH 20: Max Verstappen of the Netherlands and Oracle Red Bull Racing, Sergio Perez of Mexico and Oracle Red Bull Racing, Yuki Tsunoda of Japan and Visa Cash App RB and Daniel Ricciardo of Australia and Visa Cash App RB walk on the beach during previews ahead of the F1 Grand Prix of Australia at Albert Park Circuit on March 20, 2024 in Melbourne, Australia. (Photo by Mark Thompson/Getty Images)Marko: We're puzzled by Ricciardo, he's slower than Tsunoda SI202403200974 // Usage for editorial use only //

Daniel Ricciardo’s form has flummoxed Red Bull advisor Helmut Marko, who confirmed the Australian veteran is slower than VCARB teammate Yuki Tsunoda, suggesting the problem is “mental” while hailing Sergio Perez.

Ricciardo’s poor form at McLaren and now VCARB is a twist in the script of his F1 career none could’ve predicted, and many are struggling to accept. How did the eight-time Grand Prix winner be so bad?  Honda-plant Tsunoda is showing him up, since the pair teamed up last year, after the failed Nyck de Vries experiment.

Stats show that Ricciardo is not much better than the maligned Dutchman vis-a-vis the questionable benchmark that Tsunoda provides.  And that fact is not only confusing to F1 fans, but Red Bull too.

During an interview with Laola, Marko broached the subject of Ricciardo’s poor form: “We’re all puzzled about that. He’s generally slower than Yuki. Something never goes right with him, which is surprising, because wihter F1 Testing seemed to be good for him.

“But at the moment Yuki is clearly faster. The question is: Has Yuki become a high-flyer or is Daniel just so weak? There are still no objective answers after three races on three completely different courses,” explained Marko.

With Red Bull junior Liam Lawson waiting in the wings, Marko told reporters in Australia: “Each driver sees the data from the other so there is no secret. They have the same car. Everything is the same. Normally it’s mentally with the drivers.”

Marko: Checo delivered three good races this year

BAHRAIN, BAHRAIN - MARCH 02: Race winner Max Verstappen of the Netherlands and Oracle Red Bull Racing, Second placed Sergio Perez of Mexico and Oracle Red Bull Racing, Oracle Red Bull Racing Team Principal Christian Horner and the Oracle Red Bull Racing team pose for a photo as they celebrate after the F1 Grand Prix of Bahrain at Bahrain International Circuit on March 02, 2024 in Bahrain, Bahrain. (Photo by Mark Thompson/Getty Images) // Marko: We're puzzled by Ricciardo, he's slower than Tsunoda Images / Red Bull Content Pool // SI202403020625 // Usage for editorial use only //

This a diagnosis that McLaren acquired and believed two years ago when they paid off Ricciardo to leave the team a year earlier, to make way for Aussie rookie Oscar Piastri. A shrewd call that turned out to be.

Red Bull got it wrong offering refuge to their prodigal son who could not stop talking about how much he desired to be Verstappen’s teammate again while posing, smiling next to Perez whom Dan intended to destabilise and replace.

The awkwardness still hovers, the only difference being that Perez has raised his game, while Ricciardo remains a shadow of the magnificent driver he once was. On the F1 grid because he is marketable, not because he is fast anymore. That speed disappeared years ago, ask McLaren.

As for Perez, Marko praised the Mexican veteran for his performance in the #11 Red Bull: “It should be noted that Checo delivered three good races [out of four] this year. The reason he fell behind in Melbourne was due to the damaged underbody and tyre degradation.

“His only weakness is in qualifying, if he can improve there, there is no need to think. The atmosphere in the team is very good, also as far as he is concerned,” declared Marko.