Helmut Marko has been scathing in his assessment of Ferrari’s season, saying Red Bull’s championship lead was due to the Italian team doing “pretty much everything wrong”.
As the chequered flag waved in Hungary, Marko and Red Bull knew the World Championship was in their hands. Max Verstappen boasts an 80-point lead in the Drivers’ standings while Red Bull are 97 clear of Ferrari in the Constructors’.
This has all been against the backdrop of pretty much everyone agreeing Red Bull do not actually clearly have the fastest car. In the few battles on track between Charles Leclerc and Verstappen, it has been the former who has come out on top in terms of speed and Ferrari’s inability to capitalise on this advantage is the result of a predisposition to shoot themselves in the foot.
That is certainly how Red Bull senior advisor Marko sees it and while he is not clearing space in the trophy cabinet just yet, he said the main reason his team was so far ahead was Ferrari “doing pretty much everything wrong”.
“Don’t say that,” Marko replied when asked by Austrian newspaper Osterreich if the team could lean back and relax. “We have nine races left, that’s 225 points for nine possible wins plus sprint and fastest laps. No, we really can’t lean back yet.
“[Ferrari are] doing pretty much everything wrong. In Budapest, for example, they didn’t give the tyres the right temperature window for the first time and also chose the wrong pit strategy.”
It was then put to him that they had run out of new medium tyres, but Marko did not agree with that conclusion.
“Then I don’t understand why they didn’t take used mediums,” he said. “They would have been even better. So you celebrate Toto [Wolff] and Mercedes as big winners with places two and three.”
The 79-year-old appeared frustrated with the lack of praise given to Verstappen, who started from P10, to go on and win the race.
Another day, another Ferrari disaster
Even Charles Leclerc labelled his strategy at Ferrari a "disaster" in Hungary.
“I just want to see Max’s performance appreciated enough,” said Marko. “After the bad luck in qualifying, he won from 10th on a track where you are supposed to have no chance from behind. If he had been in front, he would have been up and away again.”
The Dutchman has shown a calmness this season which, alongside his driving ability, has made him the standout contender for the title. Such was Verstappen’s maturity in Hungary, his own boss wondered if it was actually him behind the wheel.
“When we brought Max into Formula 1 at 17, he was the greatest talent I’ve ever come across but he was too impulsive,” Marko admitted. “With the victories, he gained in maturity. When he kept his cool at the start in Budapest while overtaking, I thought ‘is that really Max sitting in there?’ With this maturity, he makes it easier for the whole crew.”
Marko even admitted this season had been “so much fun” compared to the stress of last year’s title fight.
“It has rarely been so much fun,” he said. “Almost every weekend is a pleasure, quite different from last season when everything cost a lot of nerves. It’s just a bit of a shame Ferrari make so many mistakes. They are below their value, we really feel sorry for them. But again, they will be back, they have such a strong car.”
A timeline of Ferrari’s costly mistakes
Emilia Romagna Grand Prix (April 24) – After winning two of the first three races, Leclerc spins while in third during the race at Imola. He was able to recover to a P6 finish but lost seven points to Verstappen.
Spanish Grand Prix (May 22) – Having comfortably led the race for the first 27 laps, Leclerc is forced to retire from the lead for the first time this season after an engine failure. Verstappen went on to win the race and take the championship lead.
Monaco Grand Prix (May 29) – It was the Ferrari strategists’ turn to cost the team a win having started with a front-row lockout in Monte Carlo. They transpired to guide the team to a P2 and P4 finish.
With Leclerc in the lead and looking like not only would he finish his home grand prix for the first time, but also win it, they decided to pit him twice in three laps including a slow double stack. They brought both drivers in too early to change from inters to slicks and Sergio Perez was able to take the lead – a position he did not relinquish for the rest of the race.
Azerbaijan Grand Prix (June 12) – Both Ferraris retire, Leclerc with an engine failure and Carlos Sainz with a hydraulic issue.
Canadian Grand Prix (June 19) – The Baku engine failure meant Leclerc exceeded his power-unit limit and was forced to start from the back in Montreal. He went on to finish P5 while Verstappen won, extending his championship lead.
British Grand Prix (July 3) – Ferrari opt against pitting Leclerc during a Safety Car period, which proved to be the wrong decision as he slipped to a fourth-placed finish.
Austrian Grand Prix (July 10) – Leclerc wins but Sainz is forced to retire following a fiery engine failure.
French Grand Prix (July 24) – Leclerc makes a mistake while leading the race as he spins off track and is unable to pull himself free of the barrier. The Monegasque was heard loudly screaming “no’ over the team radio as another win slipped away.
Hungarian Grand Prix (July 31) – Ferrari strategists again shoot themselves in the foot by opting to bring in Leclerc for new hard tyres instead of used mediums. As a result, he slipped down to P6.
Verstappen laughing all the way to a 2nd title
Max Verstappen has driven superbly, but has also had a helping hand from Ferrari along the way.