“I don’t understand the change at Ferrari”: formula1

In an interview with auto motor und sport, Helmut Marko comments on the secret of the success of the past season, the engine plans without Honda and his junior squad and comes to the conclusion: A new Verstappen is not in sight.

Did you get through all the title celebrations well?

Marko: I wasn’t there at the celebration in Milton Keynes. There was a big show run with everything we have in motorsport. From rally cars to Formula 1. For Milton Keynes, Red Bull is the sporting figure. Then we had our Christmas party in London. It doesn’t count in the budget cap. According to our calculations, we’re well below that this year, but we want to confirm that early enough so that we don’t experience the same kind of surprises as last year.

Where does the 2022 world title stand in your personal ranking of all six championships for Red Bull?

Marko: The first title in 2010 was definitely the most exciting in the sense that it was decided in the last race and there were three candidates to choose from. And because it was the first for us and Vettel, it deserves a special place emotionally. The 2021 championship, won against Hamilton in a true crime thriller, was the toughest in terms of mental stress. This time, the sovereignty with which Verstappen achieved some of his victories, especially that of Spa, left a lasting impression.

How do you explain the blatant superiority on points? Ferrari was pretty close on the race track.

Marko: We certainly benefited from Ferrari’s strategic mistakes, from bad luck on their side, from the engine damage. Over the course of the season they developed the car in such a way that it took more and more of the tyres. That’s what made us so confident in the race. I think that being 46 points down after the third race gave us a “now more than ever” feeling.

In addition, our car was 20 kilograms overweight at the beginning. That was a reserve that brought reliable time savings on the race track as soon as we were able to reduce the weight. In the wind tunnel you gain so and so many points of downforce, but that’s just theory at first. On the other hand, every kilogram less is in practice a certain gain in time. And as a result, the driving behavior has also changed in such a way that a Verstappen can make optimal use of it. And when the Max can push the limit and has the confidence, it’s different than when anyone else pushes the limit. Our car is where Perez is. And Perez is a very good Formula 1 driver, but he’s not a Verstappen.

Nevertheless, everything had to fit for Verstappen. The Brazilian GP showed that when just one piece of the puzzle is missing, it becomes difficult.

Marko: In addition to Brazil, there was another race where we were totally wrong in the first set-up due to the simulator. But we were able to correct that. In Brazil, the sprint format and the rain got in the way. With a normal schedule with three free practice sessions, we would have managed to do that again.

Was it also a factor that Red Bull made fewer mistakes than their opponents?

Marko: Definitely in terms of strategy. We were right most of the time. And then there is the quality of a Verstappen. With him we know that he can drive the pace that the strategy demands and that he is easy on the tyres. He has become a real tire whisperer. The best example was Abu Dhabi. As the Perez and Leclerc in tow got closer, the Max picked up the pace and gained three tenths. He had this reserve almost everywhere.

Actually, the signs for Red Bull were bad. The team had to develop the 2021 car late in the season and lost time on the 2022 car as a result. Did it help in the end that there were completely new regulations? That was an advantage for Red Bull in previous rule changes.

Marko: If the old regulations had been continued, there would have been a problem. This is how people like Adrian Newey and Rob Marshall were able to draw on their decades of experience. They recognize the pitfalls and weaknesses in the regulations, they know where to start and in which direction to go. What was fascinating was that there were three visually different cars at the top that achieved a similar result, at least for Ferrari. In the past, it would not have been so easy to recognize the differences in the cars.

Red Bull got the bouncing under control before the season even started. Did it help that Newey had the same experience 40 years earlier?

Marko: You shouldn’t look at bouncing in isolation. Everyone got it off when they put the car higher. But that had the disadvantage that down force was lost. With us, this effect was never as strong as with the others. Not even on the first test.

There has been an awful lot of turmoil in the team leader market over the last few weeks. Is everything stable at Red Bull?

Marko: With us everything stays calm. Initial talks have been held with our new boss, Mr. Mintzlaff, and everyone agrees that it wouldn’t make sense to rebuild a successful package like Red Bull Racing. Where there is a need, there is Alpha Tauri. This was not satisfactory in the past year.

New bosses like to show a new handwriting. Even if you don’t change the people involved in a successful team, there are other areas in which something could change. What do we have to be prepared for?

Marko: The new boss has assured that he will largely leave everything as it was under Mateschitz.

Do you see your opponents weakened? A change at the top always brings unrest.

marko: In the case of Ferrari, I don’t quite understand the change. I rate Binotto as an excellent technician and politician. He was simply overwhelmed by the task. But it would have been enough to provide him with a sports director who would support him on the track and with strategy. With the new man, who has many other jobs, I see a weakening for Ferrari.

Could Mercedes and Red Bull be the winners?

Marko: Definitely. Through the stability and continuity.

Red Bull builds its own engine, but Honda won’t be on board. Honda has registered for the 2026 season. Why do you go separate ways?

Marko: It’s a cramped situation that has a history. When Honda announced its withdrawal two years ago, we would not have had anything in the first phase. Honda didn’t even want to supply the existing engine. We were able to gradually transform that into a cooperation as we see it today.

At the same time, to safeguard our future, we set up our own engine factory, which is state-of-the-art with the latest test benches and measuring instruments from AVL in a newly built factory. In Sakura there is once again the same from Honda. When it came to who would do what from 2026, things got difficult. It was thought that Honda would only do the electrical part, but we couldn’t come to a common denominator. But let’s see. A decision will be made soon.

Is another partner conceivable?

Marko: Let’s wait and see.

It’s already difficult enough in Formula 1 to build a competitive car. Having your own engine is another house number. How big is the respect for it?

Marko: It’s an incredible challenge. However, it is cushioned by the fact that we have an absolute top man in our engine boss, Ben Hodgkinson, and the team, which is now almost 300 strong, consists mainly of experienced engine builders. Not just from Mercedes. We also have people on board from Ferrari, Renault and Cosworth. It’s a squad with incredible experience and expertise.

With the drive according to the new regulations, two things will be decisive. The battery and the software. At the moment every car manufacturer builds the best battery, if the advertising is to be believed. It remains to be seen who is where. If you don’t have battery production in your corporation yourself, you’ll have to resort to other sources. And there are already original equipment manufacturers who can do that. And you can form partnerships with them so that you can incorporate this know-how into your racing project.

Back to Honda: If they want to get back into business on their own in 2026, they need a team. The first tip is knee-jerk Alpha Tauri. Is the team for sale for Honda?

Marko: When Honda comes back they need a top team. That can’t be Alpha Tauri, especially not if there were no longer any synergies with us if we weren’t coupled with another engine. When I ask around, every engine manufacturer, from Audi to Renault, wants a second team. There’s not much left for Honda.

Does RB Powertrains also need a second team in terms of profitability?

Marko: Not just because of the economy. Two teams means double information. This is also an important factor in terms of development and reliability. Problems are solved faster with two teams.

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *