Helmut Marko believes RB19 is fast, but how fast compared to Red Bull’s rivals is unknown

Michelle Foster
Max Verstappen, Red Bull RB19 from above. Bahrain, February 2023.

A view from above of Max Verstappen driving the Red Bull RB19. Bahrain, February 2023.

Conceding the only thing testing told Red Bull is that the RB19 is “fast” and “reliable”, Helmut Marko concedes in relation to the other teams they don’t actually know how fast.

Red Bull set the pace during the three-day pre-season test, Sergio Perez outpacing Lewis Hamilton by 0.3s on the final day’s running.

But with Alfa Romeo P3 on the overall timesheet and Ferrari four and fifth, the fastest times are just scratching the surface.

According to many in the paddock while Red Bull’s RB19 is the fastest car over a single lap, Ferrari’s SF-23 hot on its heels, it pulls away when it comes to race pace by some four-tenths.

Adding to that, the team that may be second fastest over long runs is not Ferrari or even Mercedes, but actually Aston Martin. The Silverstone team’s AMR23 is the second or third fastest car over a race distance depending on who is interpreting the results.

But that’s all it is, interpretations, as no one knows the other teams’ fuel loads or engine modes on any given lap.

As such Marko told Sky Deutschland: “Times, as we know in testing, are relative.

“We don’t know what the competition was like on fuel, so if they were heavier than us, then our time is relative. But it has been shown that we are reliable, that we are fast, at the front.

“Above all that, what makes us very optimistic is that both of Perez’s and Max’s long runs were clearly at least faster than those of the competition.”

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As for Red Bull team boss Christian Horner, he reckons it’s “very difficult to say” who is ahead after just three days of pre-season running.

“Ferrari look like they’re quick,” he added. “Mercedes’ form is difficult to read at the moment, are they holding something back? We’ll see this time next week.”

But on Mercedes’ side there is concern.

According to Lewis Hamilton there is a “mountain of work ahead” for Mercedes before the opening race of the season in Bahrain, which takes place this weekend.

“We had an unplanned stop on the second afternoon, but overall reliability was pretty good. But we’re not where we want to be yet, but we have a good basis on which to build,” he said.

“The bouncing is mostly gone, sometimes it’s still there, but most of the time it’s not there, which makes things a whole lot better. But we do have some pace to pick up in a straight line.

“We have some things we need to work on, it’s still not perfect and we’re still not able to match the Red Bulls, or the Ferraris, currently.

“Who knows where we’ll be next week, we’ll just try to stay positive.”