Dr Helmut Marko is known for his no holds barred opinions of his drivers, past and present, and he gave a very frank overview of some of the drivers he has worked with over the years.
In the Red Bulletin before the Austrian Grand Prix, he spoke about Ferrari’s Carlos Sainz, who started in Formula 1 alongside Max Verstappen with Red Bull’s junior side Toro Rosso, now AlphaTauri.
The Spaniard did manage to out-qualify the now world champion 10 times in 19 races, but scored points on seven occasions as the Dutchman got into the top points in 10 races.
The now 27-year-old was rather overshadowed by the impressive youth of then 17-year-old Verstappen, whose extraordinary pace and phenomenal overtaking ability made him one of the standouts in the field.
When Daniil Kvyat was dropped by Red Bull in 2016, Sainz might otherwise have ended up partnering Daniel Ricciardo after round four, but he had the superstar Dutchman to contend with, so he was in the right place at the wrong time.
“It was his bad luck to get Max as a team-mate,” said Dr Marko.
There were reports of pressure being put on the junior team by Jos Verstappen and Carlos Sainz Sr during the young drivers’ partnership, which hardly helped the situation, and the Spaniard would eventually move on to Renault at the back end of 2017.
He was dropped to be replaced by Ricciardo at the end of 2018, so he moved to McLaren, where he spent two seasons before joining Ferrari last year.
“The atmosphere between the two at Toro Rosso was quite toxic. In the setup we had at the time, I couldn’t see a way of keeping him with us and so he moved to Renault, McLaren and then on to Ferrari,” added Dr Marko.
The Austrian handed out plenty of praise for Sebastian Vettel, Red Bull’s first world champion, who won four titles on the trot between 2010 and 2013.
Along with Mark Webber, he also helped the Austrian side to four consecutive constructors’ titles.
“He made ultimate use of all technical possibilities, this was also why he ultimately had the upper hand over a talented Mark Webber,” said the Red Bull adviser.
After Webber left the sport after the 2013 season, he was replaced by fellow Australian Ricciardo, who dominated the now Aston Martin racer in 2014, winning three races and out-qualifying him 12 times in 19 races.
Vettel had an agreement in place with Ferrari before the 2014 season even started that he would join for 2015, and this forced Fernando Alonso out of the door when his relationship with the Scuderia soured.
Vettel headed to Maranello in 2015, while Alonso returned to McLaren before eventually finding his way back to the Enstone-based Renault side with whom he won both of his titles – they are now named Alpine.
Ricciardo was partnered in 2015 by Kvyat who, despite his solid start to the 2016 season, was dropped after four races following two incidents with Vettel, so Verstappen stepped up to replace him.
The Dutchman out-qualified Ricciardo 34 times in 58 races, and won five races to the now 32-year-old’s four during their time together.
Dr Marko believes that Ricciardo did not have the “consistency” to challenge Verstappen at Red Bull.
“In his first year at Red Bull, he beat Vettel by three wins to nil. Max coming on the scene was a crunch point in his career,” he explained.
“Rather than taking up the fight, he wanted to keep his distance, and you know what happened next, that’s too bad.
“He was always nice to work with. His speed is comparable to that of Max, but he’s just lacking that ultimate consistency.”
Pierre Gasly endured a painful half season at the Milton Keynes based side in 2019, and failed to score a podium while Verstappen managed five along with two race wins.
The Frenchman was lapped as the now 24-year-old won the Austrian Grand Prix that year, and he was eventually dropped midway through the season.
His replacement was Alex Albon, and the Thai-Brit’s two podiums in 2020 were not enough to keep him at the side as he too was comprehensively out-raced by Verstappen.
Dr Marko noted that Albon was “too nice” during his time there, while Gasly “looked for excuses instead of tackling his own mistakes,” referring to the setup discomfort that the 26-year-old experienced in 2019.
The 79-year-old described Yuki Tsunoda as “very funny and likeable,” but conceded that “no one can blow their top quite like he does.”
Dr Marko has recently assigned a sports psychologist to Tsunoda to help manage his anger during races.