Helmut Marko opens up on Max Verstappen ‘freaking out’

Max Verstappen is within touching distance of his second world title.

Red Bull adviser, Dr Helmut Marko, has observed that Max Verstappen is no longer “freaking out” when not all is going his way at the start of the weekend.

The Dutchman signed with Red Bull in 2016 after just one season with Toro Rosso, and he won on his debut at the 2016 Spanish Grand Prix.

Another 30 victories have materialised since, and he has had the beating of talented team-mates, Daniel Ricciardo, Pierre Gasly, Alex Albon and Sergio Perez.

More importantly though, the 24-year-old earned his maiden world title last season, dramatically beating Sir Lewis Hamilton in the final round of the season in Abu Dhabi, and he is now inches away from his second.

READ: Christian Horner explains why he was shocked by Red Bull’s 2022 car

11 wins have put Verstappen within reach of breaking two major records too – the most wins in a single season, and the most consecutive wins for a single driver.

The reigning champion’s dominance in 2022 has been aided by an alleviation of pressure from his shoulders having claimed the crown last year, and Dr Marko can see that in the demeanour of his driver.

“Max now drives faster with less risk and also with less wear to the equipment,” he said in conversation with ORF.

“In the past, if something didn’t work out on Friday, he was close to freaking out, he sees it very differently now.

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“We would be working hard for the race, which bothered Max a lot a year or two ago. He just always wanted to be P1. But what is most important, of course, is victory.

“Now, if you know it’s possible, you can live with second or third on the grid.”

Verstappen became Red Bull’s second drivers’ champion last year after Sebastian Vettel won four on the trot with the Austrian side between 2010 and 2013.

The German had won four races in his debut season with them in 2009, and ended second in the championship behind Jenson Button.

There is better infrastructure for winning titles now than there was 13 years ago.

“With Vettel in 2009, neither he nor us were ready for the world championship, then came those four years but I think there is less pressure in the team now,” explained Dr Marko.

“The team has proved what it can do – like now, we always have the fastest pitstops.”

Vettel and Mark Webber brought home the Constructors’ Championship in all of the now 35-year-old’s title winning campaigns, but they had their scrapes out on track will battling for supremacy.

The dynamic between Verstappen and Perez now is an arguably easier one to manage.

“We have a very clear number 1 position, in the Vettel era it was Mark Webber, but there were strong rivalries that affected the harmony,” stated Dr Marko.

“In that sense, Max also has a better and perfectly tailored package.”

Verstappen and Red Bull may have one hand on the trophies, but there is no room for complacency.

“I’ve said this before and I think everyone in the team thinks it too, we want to win more races,” said the 24-year-old.

READ: Max Verstappen makes surprising claim about title fight with Charles Leclerc

“You can’t say ‘we’re happy to play it safe with second or third place’. We don’t want to let other teams win.

“If you start thinking like that, you’ll end up making mistakes.”

Verstappen leads Ferrari’s Charles Leclerc by 116 points in the Drivers’ Standings, while Red Bull hold a 139-point advantage over the Scuderia in the teams’ battle.