Sergio Perez’s chances of winning this year’s World title are “over” with Helmut Marko declaring Max Verstappen “never” saw his team-mate as a genuine threat.
Trading blows and P1s in the opening rounds of the championship, Perez and Verstappen went into the Monaco Grand Prix separated by just 14 points with Verstappen having taken three wins to his team-mate’s two.
But while Verstappen was P2 in the races he didn’t win, Perez dropped the ball in qualifying for the Australian Grand Prix and could only recover to P5. That was the main factor in the points’ difference.
However, with the Mexican driver again getting it wrong in a Q1 session, this time in Monaco, Verstappen has surged 39 points clear of his team-mate and Marko has declared the title race done and dusted.
He told Oe24: “That’s over. But in reality, Max never saw Perez as a serious threat.”
In sharp contrast the 80-year-old is full of praise for his double World Champion Verstappen and his Ayrton Senna-esque abilities.
Not for the first time Marko reckons there is something very Senna like in Verstappen’s ability, now he’s laughing as others finally catch up to the idea.
“I compared Max to Senna a few years ago and was smiled at,” he said. “The know-it-alls from back then are slowly running out of arguments.
“Max has not only developed as a racing driver, but also as a personality.
“The incredible qualifying lap he put in in Monaco on Saturday is already coming close to Senna. Max is the best in all conditions.”
But while Marko reckons P1 is in the bag for Verstappen, P2 in the standings could yet change – not because Aston Martin may attack Red Bull but because Mercedes are coming for the Silverstone team.
Separated by just one point in the standings, Marko reckons the upgraded Mercedes with its Red Bull-esque sidepods and revised floor could yet do something.
“Maybe they’ll ignite a super rocket,” he said, “but it would be a huge leap if they made it to our level. And then they have to continuously keep up.”
That’s not something he thinks any team can do with the Austrian confident of a seventh win in seven races in Barcelona.
“Barcelona shows how good a car really is,” he said. “It says: if a car works on this track, it will also work on 80 percent of the rest.”
But, he accepts, “last year we struggled with Ferrari – but they get it all wrong, and it’s easy to make mistakes in F1.
“I’m sorry that the tension is lost. As you can see, TV ratings on Sky are falling dramatically. You have to watch that. Fortunately, the boom in Austria is unbroken, as the ticket sales show.”
Red Bull have double Aston Martin’s points in the Constructors’ standings, 249 to 120, while Verstappen is 39 points ahead of Perez who in turn has a 12-point advantage over Fernando Alonso.