Helmut Marko drops huge Mercedes claim in blow to Lewis Hamilton

Lewis Hamilton and George Russell finished fifth and seventh at the season-opening Bahrain GP, almost a minute behind Max Verstappen.

Red Bull advisor Dr Helmut Marko believes that the 2023 world title is already “out of reach for Mercedes”, with the Germans facing “several” problems with the concept of their W14.

The season-opening Bahrain Grand Prix was labelled as one of the “worst days in racing” by Mercedes boss Toto Wolff, as the Silver Arrows languished in fifth and seventh at the Bahrain International Circuit.

Lewis Hamilton was the top factory Mercedes driver in fifth; however, he still crossed the line 51 seconds behind 2021 rival Max Verstappen.

The reigning world champion was imperious in Bahrain, with nobody having come close to beating him or Red Bull.

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To make matters worse for Mercedes, their customer team Aston Martin were significantly faster, with Fernando Alonso having claimed third for the Silverstone-based team.

Following their horrific first race of the season, it’s already expected that Mercedes are going to try and change the concept of their car, in a bid to close the cap.

Due to the budget cap, though, this has been described as “tricky” by Marko.

“The world championship title is out of reach for Mercedes,” Marko told French radio station RTL.

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“Mercedes does not have one problem with the concept this year, but several. They have not been able to find a solution in the winter.

“It will be difficult: you can’t just design two or three different cars. It will be tricky with the budget cap. A new car doesn’t just work either, because you have to be competitive from the start. They lack the test days and race experience.”

Red Bull know themselves how challenging it is to stick to the budget cap, with the Austrians having breached the 2021 cap by $2.2 million.

They are currently serving their penalty for having breached the cap, but as of yet it’s yet to really hurt the Milton Keynes-based side.

Marko is expecting it to eventually impact the side, though, and has revealed that Red Bull are “prepared” for their rivals to suddenly get closer to them.

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“We prepared ourselves optimally for the season,” he told Formel1.de.

“Once we knew that this penalty would be imposed, it was clear that, when we went into the wind tunnel, it had to be done in an efficient manner and each run with a clear plan.

“At the moment, we’ve managed to do all that. But, of course, as the season progresses and we run out of wind tunnel time, the others will still have that available and our lead will then melt away.”