Red Bull advisor Dr Helmut Marko suggests that Max Verstappen hasn’t quite found the sweet spot of his RB18 yet, and has praised the efforts of Sergio Perez alongside him.
Verstappen leads Perez 3-1 in the qualifying battle after four qualifying sessions in 2022 having claimed his first pole of the season at the Emilia Romagna Grand Prix ahead of Saturday’s sprint race.
Though it was a quintessentially exquisite performance in wet conditions from the Dutchman on Friday, he has not necessarily been entirely happy with the balance of his car this season, particularly in qualifying when trying to get the tyres into the right window.
His reliability issues have done little to accelerate his compatibility with the car, and Dr Marko notes that the pattern between his team and Ferrari has been the inverse of last season.
The Austrian believes that, while Carlos Sainz acclimatised to the 2021 Ferrari perhaps slightly better than Charles Leclerc, Perez has now adapted a little more easily than Verstappen, with Leclerc now dominating at the Scuderia.
“It’s the opposite to us – Sergio Perez is much closer to Max than was the case in 2021,” he told F1-insider.com.
However, having briefly worked with Sainz during the Spaniard’s Toro Rosso days, the 78-year-old has no doubts as to his ability to bounce back from a turbulent start to the season.
“The simplest explanation is that the new cars with less downforce suit some drivers better than others. Sainz is an intelligent and very hard worker and he will work off his deficit,” he explained.
Dr Marko observes that Verstappen may need to slightly adapt his style to suit the much more sensitive ground effect aerodynamics that have completely changed the nature of the beasts in 2022.
“Perez is very happy with the car, while Max finds it harder. He hasn’t found the right balance yet and therefore doesn’t have the fullest confidence in the car.
“His aggressive driving style doesn’t quite go together with the new cars.”
He also compared Red Bull’s relationship with Ferrari to that which they have with Mercedes, and he insinuated that they get on better with the Scuderia due to their mutual passion for the sport.
“Ferrari and we have a similar approach. There’s passion, fascination and sport in the foreground. At Mercedes, there was a lot of politics involved with him, which creates a different atmosphere,” he added.
While Verstappen grabbed pole in Bologna, Perez’s runs in Q3 on Friday were disrupted by a mistake followed by a red flag, leaving him seventh.
The Red Bull pair took a commanding one-two in Sunday’s grand prix at Imola, while Ferrari had a race to forget.