Helmut Marko, head of Red Bull’s driver development programme and a senior team advisor, has said that he believes Daniel Ricciardo was increasingly struggling to keep up Max Verstappen and suggested that’s why he decided to leave the team two years ago.
He made the remarks when speaking about Red Bull’s decision to drop Alex Albon for Sergio Perez in a recent interview with Motorsport-Total.com.
“All the reports and the unsatisfactory results unsettled him,” Marko said of the Thai racer, who will serve as Red Bull’s reserve and test driver next year.
“His deficit on Verstappen widened over the course of the season, not decreased. Admittedly [it was] marginal, but it got bigger.
“But if you have a team-mate who drives at the absolute top level, no matter what the car is, that plays a subordinate role.
“If you look at it that way, no one except Ricciardo has existed on the same level as Max. And the longer the combination Ricciardo and Max was, the clearer Max was able to set himself apart,” the Austrian added.
In their first season as Red Bull team-mates, Ricciardo outqualified Verstappen 11-6 and also outscored him, with the Aussie picking up 220 points compared to Verstappen’s tally of 191.
The following season was a closer affair, with Verstappen outqualifying Ricciardo 13-7 but the Aussie scoring 200 points to the Dutch ace’s 168.
2018 was the season Verstappen finally outscored Ricciardo, with the Dutchman finishing 79 points ahead of him in the standings, though it should be noted that reliability was partly responsible for this points deficit.
As for their qualifying battle, Verstappen came out firmly on top as well, beating Ricciardo 15-3.
After leaving Red Bull for Renault at the end of 2018, Ricciardo will be racing with McLaren next year as he continues to search the right team to find him with a Championship-winning car.