Helmut Marko pokes fun at Ferrari after Austria battle

Charles Leclerc and Carlos Sainz battled hard in the opening laps of the Sprint race, allowing Max Verstappen to escape.

Max Verstappen cruised to victory in Saturday’s Sprint race at the Austrian Grand Prix, after Charles Leclerc and Carlos Sainz allowed the reigning World Champion to escape.

With Leclerc and Sainz running second and third, the pair opted to race each other rather than work as a team to catch the Red Bull Racing driver.

The pair’s squabble saw Verstappen build a 2-second gap within the opening few laps, something which was uncatchable due to the short race distance.

Ferrari’s inter-team fight brought a smile to Red Bull advisor Dr Helmut Marko, who insisted to Sky sports Germany that “Ferrari helped” Verstappen claim pole for Sunday’s race.

READ: Should George Russell have received a penalty for changing wing-spec in Austria?

“We take this with open arms,” Dr Marko joked.

“Ferrari helped us because they were fighting with each other. That gave us an easy lead of two seconds.”

Despite a commanding victory in front of an orange army, Verstappen came under pressure on the opening lap.

Leclerc took the fight to his title rival early-on, which in return brought Sainz into the fight.

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The Dutchman defended well, and held off any challenge from either of the red drivers.

“At the start, it was tense for a moment, but Verstappen handled it well,” Marko continued.

On the other side of the Red Bull garage, Sergio Pérez recovered brilliantly from a 13th place start.

The Mexican was forced to start from 13th after exceeding track limits in Q2; however, in typical Pérez style, he breezed his way through the pack.

Marko admitted that 5th was better than they had anticipated, with 6th being where the team were hoping for.

“Perez was also super,” said Marko.

“He was careful at the beginning of the race to avoid any damage.

“Fifth place is actually more than we expected. Sixth is what we calculated and it’s a good starting position for the Grand Prix on Sunday.”

Pérez’s incredible Saturday recovery means he will most likely be right in the fight for a podium finish.