Dr Helmut Marko has said that Max Verstappen’s performance in the Miami Grand Prix was exemplary of a driver that is able to deliver under intense pressure.
Verstappen crashed during practice on Friday, before a hydraulic issue compounded what was already a difficult day’s running, so he was left relatively unprepared heading into qualifying.
A mistake on his final run on Saturday gave Charles Leclerc the chance to pounce, and the Monegasque took pole as Carlos Sainz managed to join his team-mate on the front row.
The Dutchman took second place away from Sainz on the opening lap before passing Leclerc in the opening stint, and he looked dominant until a Safety Car caused by Pierre Gasly’s crash with Lando Norris put his victory in jeopardy.
However, he calmly held off the late challenge by Leclerc to claim his 23rd victory in Formula 1, and his third of the 2022 season.
Following complications throughout the weekend, the high temperatures on Sunday, and heavy pressure at the end of the race, Dr Marko was left thoroughly impressed with the reigning world champion.
“We had some problems on Friday, but Saturday was back to normal,” he told de Telegraaf.
“This shows that we have a world champion in our house. We can count on him and he must also be able to deliver under difficult circumstances.”
Had it not been for Verstappen’s reliability-induced failures this year, Verstappen might well have found himself ahead in the championship rather than 19 points behind Leclerc.
Nonetheless, the Austrian anticipates a thrilling battle between the pair this year.
“After the race in Australia we were more than 40 points behind, then I said it could go either way,” said Dr Marko.
“And now there are 19. It’s so close, a matter of which track suits which car best. It will be a fight between Max and Leclerc.”
Partway through the race, Sergio Perez began to drop back massively from Sainz and fall back towards Valtteri Bottas when a sensor on the car failed, meaning that he was losing time hand over fist on the straight.
They eventually stabilised the situation but, despite the Mexican’s best efforts at the end, the issue would ultimately keep him off the podium as Sainz came away with third.
Dr Marko laments the fact that another reliability concern cost his team points on Sunday.
“That’s why it’s not a perfect day,” explained the 79-year-old.
“We had a problem with his car with a sensor. As a result, he lost four tenths on the straight, otherwise we would have had two cars on the podium.”
Team principal Christian Horner was also full of praise for Verstappen’s ability to withstand the onslaught from Leclerc after the late Safety Car.
“[We threw] everything we had at it,” he told Sky Sports.
“After the Safety Car, we were quite lucky in that Ferrari didn’t pit and take on a new tyre for that because they could probably have put on the soft tyre so at least that neutralised things.
“But then once Charles was in the DRS we couldn’t shake him off and Max… there’s so much pressure in that position that it’s just easy to lock a wheel and so on.
“He kept it clean, he didn’t make any mistakes and then was gradually able to break [the DRS to Leclerc].
“It took him about five or six laps to break the DRS and then he was able to manage it from there.”
Red Bull’s Miami victory now lands them six points behind Ferrari in the Constructors’ Championship.