Red Bull advisor Dr Helmut Marko has rejected claims that the Austrians signed former driver Daniel Ricciardo to “put pressure” on Sergio Pérez, with the Australian having been brought back to the team purely to “increase our market”.
Despite 2022 having been a remarkable season for Red Bull, with the team having claimed the Constructors’ Championship and 17 wins, the season ended in frosty fashion.
Tensions between Pérez and Max Verstappen dramatically appeared at the Brazilian Grand Prix, where the Dutchman refused to give Checo P6, despite being instructed to do so by the Milton Keynes-based outfit.
It was later reported that Verstappen refused to give the place up due to believing that Pérez crashed on purpose during qualifying at the Monaco Grand Prix, something which stopped the double World Champion claiming pole.
This tension between the two appears to have continued during the winter break, with Verstappen having suggested that his Mexican team-mate needs to “accept” the number two role.
“I’m not going to name names, but you have to accept your role,” the Dutchman said.
Given the apparent breakdown between the duo, many are certain that Ricciardo will be seen racing for Red Bull once again, should Verstappen and Pérez continue to irritate each other.
Marko has denied any of the sort, with the team needing someone like Ricciardo to increase their popularity in America, a nation where the former McLaren driver is adored.
“We must not forget that we are a very, very big team,” said the Austrian.
“We have more sponsors than any other team and that comes with a lot of obligations.
“We also want to increase our market share in America and who better to do that than Ricciardo. He has a big smile and his ‘shoey’ is known everywhere.
“He also has a lot of experience and can take the car to a higher level,” Marko added. “We are absolutely not trying to put pressure on Sergio.”
Marko appears to be confident that Pérez is the right person to have alongside Verstappen, something he proved by winning at Monaco and Singapore this year.
The Austrian added that Pérez is always in the right place when Verstappen has a bad race, but that ultimately, he’s “not a Verstappen”.
“I think Sergio has shown that he can drive at a very high level,” Marko said.
“If Max doesn’t have a good race, Perez is there.
“When Max can push the limit and has the confidence, it’s different than when anyone else pushes the limit,” he insisted.
“Our car is where Perez is. And Perez is a very good Formula 1 driver. But he’s not a Verstappen.”