Red Bull Motorsports advisor Helmut Marko has claimed that Red Bull Racing have the superior chassis on the current Formula 1 grid, well ahead of their rivals Mercedes-AMG Petronas Formula One Team and Scuderia Ferrari.
Marko’s words come directly after Max Verstappen took Red Bull’s second successive victory at the Malaysia Grand Prix – their second victory of the 2017 season. The race also saw Daniel Ricciardo finish in third, helping the Austrian energy drinks backed team to their first double podium finish since their Malaysian triumph 12 months ago.
Similarly to June’s Azerbaijan Grand Prix – a race that saw Ricciardo take an unlikely victory in chaotic circumstances, Marko acknowledged that Red Bull pounced on good fortune; both Sebastian Vettel and Kimi Räikkönen suffered with turbo problems, all but eliminating the potential of a Ferrari victory.
Whilst Vettel fought back to an impressive fourth from last, Räikkönen’s issue ended his race before the start, further enhancing Red Bull’s position on the grid.
However, Marko was keen to assert his belief that his team had the pace to win the race without the misfortune of others.
“Ferrari had problems, but our race speed was comparable,” the Austrian told Motorsport.com. “In the end [Vettel] was on super-soft tyres, and you saw that, when he was catching Ricciardo, he went too close and he ruined his front tyres, so that’s why he had to stop his attack.”
Marko also took solace from Verstappen’s pace in comparison to Lewis Hamilton, his lead wasn’t troubled after a bold move on the inside of the Briton at Turn 1 on lap 4. Furthermore, Ricciardo triumphed over the second Mercedes of an off-colour Valtteri Bottas soon after, before pulling away with ease.
“The big satisfaction is to overtake Mercedes and pull away. It shows that the work that we did since our poor start in Melbourne pays off, and the development goes in the right direction.”
“Chassis-wise, for sure we are the best now.”
“If everything stays together, then Max or Daniel can achieve a podium, and maybe one or the other can win.”
Marko also came across bullish at his team’s chances over the course of the Japanese Grand Prix this weekend, a track that famously suits the Red Bull – and chief designer Adrian Newey’s – strengths.
However, the Austrian did suggest that Red Bull may find unwanted pain in the form of grid penalties for extra engine components.
“Suzuka should be a good circuit, but of course we will have more penalties. But the big thing is that Max’s bad luck came to an end.”
Speaking further on Verstappen’s late-season turnaround, Marko feels that the turmoil has been a good learning experience for the 19-year-old Dutchman, who has been rumoured to leave Red Bull in the near future.
“It was difficult. He was just 19 years old [and turned 20 during the Malaysia weekend], but I think it was character-building in a hard way.”