SUZUKA, JAPAN - APRIL 07: Race winner Max Verstappen of the Netherlands and Oracle Red Bull Racing celebrates on the podium during the F1 Grand Prix of Japan at Suzuka International Racing Course on April 07, 2024 in Suzuka, Japan. (Photo by Peter Fox/Getty Images) // Getty Images / Red Bull Content Pool // SI202404070317 // Usage for editorial use only //

Marko: Max motivated, Checo solid, Yuki sensational, Dan over-cautious

SUZUKA, JAPAN - APRIL 07: Race winner Max Verstappen of the Netherlands and Oracle Red Bull Racing celebrates on the podium during the F1 Grand Prix of Japan at Suzuka International Racing Course on April 07, 2024 in Suzuka, Japan. (Photo by Peter Fox/Getty Images) // Getty Images / Red Bull Content Pool // SI202404070317 // Usage for editorial use only //

Team advisor Helmut Marko gave his feedback on the quartet of Red Bull drivers in action during the 2024 Japanese Grand Prix.

Round 4 of the 2024 FIA Formula 1 World Championship as Suzuka will go down as another race of Red Bull dominance, Max Verstappen finishing ahead of Perez Perez, the winner 20.8 seconds ahead of next-best Ferrari’s Carlos Sainz. The Sunday lockout marked RBRs 31st one-two in F1.

In his post-JapanGP column on Red Bull’s Speedweek, Marko summed up: “Max was highly motivated but wasn’t really happy with the setup during all the practice sessions. The qualifying lap wasn’t ideal either, but it was just enough for pole position.

“It wasn’t until the race that we were fully there again. On the one hand, this was due to the changes made in qualifying and, on the other hand, due to the higher temperatures [on race day] that traditionally suit Red Bull,” explained Marko.

After Japan, Red Bull top the 2024 F1 Constructors’ points standings by 21 points over Ferrari. In the Blue #1 car, Verstappen is ticking the right boxes on the road to what will probably be his fourth F1 World Champion title, leading Perez by 13 points, despite the DNF in Australia.

Red Bull took a major upgrade to Japan but running was hampered

SUZUKA, JAPAN - APRIL 07: Max Verstappen of the Netherlands driving the (1) Oracle Red Bull Racing RB20 leads Sergio Perez of Mexico driving the (11) Oracle Red Bull Racing RB20 and the rest of the field into the first corner at the start of the race during the F1 Grand Prix of Japan at Suzuka International Racing Course on April 07, 2024 in Suzuka, Japan. (Photo by Mark Thompson/Getty Images) // Getty Images / Red Bull Content Pool // SI202404070422 // Usage for editorial use only //

At Suzuka, in September last year sans the cheery cherry blossoms, Verstappen won the Grand Prix by 19.4s over McLaren’s Lando Norris in P2. Thus F1 fans and pundits are asking: Are rivals closer to Red Bull this season than they were last year?

Marko inadvertently answers the question: “The reason why we weren’t optimal with the setup was probably a major update that we brought in Japan. Because the second session on Friday was more or less cancelled – too wet for slicks, too dry for intermediates – these things can happen. The weather forecast for Friday was good, but rainy for Saturday.

“In reality, it was exactly the opposite. With Max, adjusting the front wing turned out to be critical, also caused by the higher Sunday temperatures. Max wanted more wing, his race engineer GP Lambiase less. Because the race was cancelled, we were in the fortunate position of being able to readjust that.

“Indirectly you can say that Ricciardo helped Verstappen because from the restart everything was fine for Max. By the way, the reason for the Racing Bulls’ bad start was the hard tyres,” added Marko.

On the matter of Ricciardo, beaten in Qualifying on Saturday to make it 0-4 in favour of Tsunoda, and then watching his younger teammate score a point while the Aussie’s 243rd Grand Prix ended in the wall, a kilometre or so from the startline.

Marko: Ricciardo was over-cautious

Marko: Ricciardo was over-cautious crash suzuka 2024 japanese gp

The crash happened in Turn 3, but the rot for Ricciardo – who made a relatively good start – was the trepidation visible as the field roared into Turn 1 and he was gobbled up by slow starters (Yuki) and those behind.

“Ricciardo was over-cautious in the first corner and was overtaken on the left and right. Then there was this racing accident, which can easily happen at the beginning,” reckoned Marko.

Who also had praise for the other two drivers, starting with Tsunoda: “At the second start, Yuki did sensationally well. His overtaking manoeuvres were the show of the day. The local fans were completely over the moon. His weekend he was at the level of Max, Alonso and Co. Flawless, a great performance under the pressure of his home race.”

Marko also had good things to say about Perez: “Checo was also very solid. He was unlucky at the pit stop, but he got back into the game with a great manoeuvre against Hamilton in the R160 corner. He’s having his best season with us so far.”

Big Question: Were rivals closer to Red Bull this year than last year at this time?

2024 F1 standings graphic after 20und 4 japanese grand prix-001