‘It would be extremely risky’: Helmut Marko sends warning to Max Verstappen

Max Verstappen leads the world championship by 80 points from Charles Leclerc having won the title last year.

Red Bull adviser Dr Helmut Marko has echoed team principal Christian Horner’s sentiment that the team need to stay focused on winning races in the remainder of 2022.

Max Verstappen has won eight races in what has been a tremendous defence of his title so far, but it has not all been plain sailing for the Austrian side.

Charles Leclerc and Carlos Sainz took a Ferrari one-two in Bahrain as both Verstappen and Sergio Perez suffered late reliability failures, before Verstappen narrowly beat the Monegasque to victory in Jeddah a week later.

Leclerc won again in Melbourne as Verstappen fell victim to another engine failure, but the tide was turned in Imola.

READ: Toto Wolff praises FIA president for handling of Abu Dhabi GP controversy

Between them, Verstappen and Perez won six in a row as pure pace conspired with reliability and strategic issues to cost Ferrari points, and the Milton Keynes-based outfit took control of the title narrative.

Following the Scuderia’s latest nightmare in Budapest, which saw Leclerc finish sixth, Verstappen’s subsequent win leaves him 80 points clear of his fellow 24-year-old in the Drivers’ Championship.

The 28-time race winner recovered from 10th on the grid to do so, symbolising, in Dr Marko’s mind, the positive influence Verstappen’s title success in 2021 has had on him.

Asked by Motorsport-total.com if his driver had surpassed even four-time champion Sebastian Vettel as the team’s best-ever driver, the 79-year-old said “yes.”

Article continues below

“Quite clearly, after winning the World Championship, he has gained confidence without the speed suffering, and he is even faster with less risk and less material wear,” explained Dr Marko.

READ: IndyCar driver criticises Formula 1 racers over safety ‘cop-out’

But the Austrian stopped short of declaring the title race over, affirming that the team still need to win “three or four” of the remaining nine races in 2022 to secure constructors’ gold for the first time since 2013.

Verstappen will also be acutely aware that his lead in the drivers’ battle can also quicky dissipate if he does not maintain his focus.

What the four-time champions cannot afford is to sit back and play the long game; they need to keep attacking to win races and see of the challenge of Ferrari.

“That is not our goal and it would be extremely risky, we saw that last year when we then suddenly only managed second places,” added Dr Marko.

“We still have to win three or four races if the balance of power remains like this, if Mercedes can still race for wins on their own, that would be rather better for us and worse for Ferrari, because Ferrari have to score optimally to have a chance.”

Red Bull are 97 points clear of Ferrari in the teams’ battle, with the Mercedes pair of Sir Lewis Hamilton and George Russell a further 30 back following the Silver Arrows’ recent improvements.