Red Bull advisor Dr Helmut Marko predicts that Mercedes may be able to get to the bottom of the issues that have plagued them in the early going of 2022, but maintains that he prefers a championship battle with Ferrari.
Mercedes and Red Bull spent 2021 battling for title glory while Ferrari, a far cry from the pace of the leading two, spent a large portion of it working on their new car ahead of Formula 1’s transition to brand-new regulations.
It has paid off. Charles Leclerc and Carlos Sainz claimed a one-to in Bahrain, before the Maranello squad achieved a double podium behind Max Verstappen as the world champion got off the mark following his gutting late retirement in Bahrain.
Dr Marko affirmed previously that Red Bull have “always been strong” when the regulations have changed and, despite a lot of their focus being placed on last season, they seem to have nailed the new rules where Mercedes have struggled.
As a result, the Austrian declares that there is a “new rivalry” in F1, but is very aware that the eight-time constructors’ champions will be resolute in their bid to climb back up.
“Mercedes is at least half a second too slow at the moment, but who knows, they may be able to solve their problems,” he told de Telegraaf.
“But we don’t sleep either. We work hard to further develop the car.”
While team principal Christian Horner has frequently butted heads with Mercedes boss Toto Wolff, particularly in the fight between Verstappen and Sir Lewis Hamilton, he previously testified that he never had any issues with former Ferrari team principal Stefano Domenicali as the two teams jostled between 2010 and 2013.
There appears to be a more placid relationship between them, and Dr Marko does not anticipate that this season’s title fight will reach the intensity of last year.
“I think it’s more beautiful to fight with Leclerc and Ferrari than with Mercedes. It is now more on a sporting level. I know we’ve only had two races, but I don’t think it will escalate like Mercedes,” he explained.
Distinct set-ups were evident between Ferrari and Red Bull as we begin to discern more clearly which cars are stronger in which areas.
The Red Bull was astonishingly fast on the straights in Jeddah, but the Scuderia dominated the first sector as they capitalised on the car’s strength in downforce.
Verstappen passed Leclerc in another enticing battle at the end of the race, and the 78-year-old was enthused by the intricate strategical fight on-track.
“If Max sees his chance, he will go for it. His overtakes are incredible,” he said.
“We also decided on Friday to use a smaller rear wing, so that we had more top speed. The handicap was that we lost a few tenths in the first sector. Fortunately, it fell our way.”
Sergio Perez had started the race on pole, but fell down to fourth as a result of an ill-timed Safety Car caused by Nicholas Latifi’s crash, and he ended the race fourth behind Sainz, who took the final spot on the podium.