Marko warns Red Bull of Verstappen ‘timebomb’

Max Verstappen has suffered two reliability-induced retirements in the first three races of the 2022 season.

Red Bull advisor Dr Helmut Marko believes that Max Verstappen will begin to grow agitated if the team’s reliability does not improve soon.

On the whole, Red Bull have dealt with the new technical regulations well. They introduced upgrades in the pre-season test in Bahrain that all but eliminated “porpoising” and is said to have gained them three quarters of the second.

Their Honda power unit looks very strong this season, but there are two main issues that have hindered Red Bull in 2022.

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The first is that Ferrari look, at present, insurmountable in the corners while still remaining competitive down the straights but, more importantly, reliability for the Milton Keynes side has been horrific.

Verstappen was passed for second in Bahrain by Carlos Sainz after the beginnings of a reliability issue – which compounded the pre-existing “heavy” steering wheel after damage in the pits – turned into a full failure, sending him out of the race.

Team-mate Sergio Perez suffered the same vacuum issue moments after the Dutchman meaning that, for only the fourth time in their history since 2005, Red Bull walked away from the opening round of the season with no points.

The reigning world champion looked back on track after his thrilling victory in Jeddah, but as Charles Leclerc claimed his second win of the season in Australia, Verstappen was forced to retire again by virtue of a failure.

This time, it is thought to be a fuel line that caused the abrupt end to his afternoon, and he conceded after the race that, given the pace deficit his team already had to Ferrari that weekend, he is “miles behind” Leclerc.

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He would later emphasise that there is “no reason to believe” that he can retain his title if the issues persist, but Dr Marko notes that the 24-year-old appeared in a more placid mood in Melbourne than he might have done under similar circumstances before.

“He is a lot calmer,” he told ORF in Austria.

“After his retirement [in Australia], he returned to the pit box and we discussed things calmly.”

The Austrian reveals that the team had already noticed the eventually terminal issue during qualifying, so the calmness from his driver may have owed slightly to the fact that it was not as unanticipated as we might have thought at the time.

“In this case, we knew we could run into that problem, because we also had to deal with that in qualifying, so it didn’t come out of the blue in that regard,” he explained.

“He is an emotional and passionate driver who will always give his opinion. But, in my view, he is a lot calmer, calmer than in the past.”

The senior official at Red Bull has recently divulged that he was “afraid” of losing Verstappen in 2019 when the Milton Keynes side were still clambering back up towards the top following five years of relative mediocrity in the hybrid era, and he is aware that they risk losing the talismanic Dutchman should they be unable to resolve their reliability concerns.

READ: Red Bull solved porpoising troubles ‘by accident’

“If we don’t win again soon, then he is indeed a time bomb!” Dr Marko cautioned.

Red Bull are 49 points adrift of Ferrari in the Constructors’ Standings, while Verstappen is in sixth in the Drivers’ Championship following two DNFs.