Helmut Marko makes ‘very impressive’ admission in Ferrari Aus GP pace theory

Jamie Woodhouse
Red Bull driver programme boss Helmut Marko on the F1 grid in Bahrain.

Red Bull driver programme boss Helmut Marko.

While Red Bull senior advisor Helmut Marko is not getting too concerned yet after Ferrari’s dominant Friday display at the Australian Grand Prix, Charles Leclerc’s race run did catch his attention.

Red Bull went into the Australian GP with all the momentum after securing comfortable 1-2 finishes at the Bahrain and Saudi Arabian GPs, Max Verstappen ahead of Sergio Perez on both occasions, though Leclerc has given reason to believe that Red Bull may not enjoy such a plentiful supply of breathing room this time out at Albert Park.

Helmut Marko: Charles Leclerc race run ‘very impressive’

Leclerc set the pace for FP2 and by some margin, the Ferrari driver 0.4 seconds quicker than P2 finisher Verstappen by the time the chequered flag appeared.

Marko though believes that engine modes could well explain that margin.

“I think Ferrari used full power in the qualifying simulation, we did not,” he told Sky Germany.

That being said, Marko is not discounting Ferrari as a threat this weekend in Melbourne, far from it.

Red Bull has made a habit so far in F1 2024 of growing into a race weekend, making sure they finish it on top, with the RB20 excelling in grand prix conditions.

However, Marko is not so sure that Red Bull will be streaking away from closest challengers Ferrari this time around, as he found Leclerc’s race simulation on Friday “very impressive”.

“That’s why I don’t see the gap as critical – but the long run by Leclerc was very impressive,” Marko continued.

“Our set-up is not yet right, but the car is not bad, [although] Leclerc set a pace that means we still need to fine-tune.

“In general, you have to say that the field is moving closer together.”

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Leclerc was looking to keep optimism under control, though looking ahead to qualifying and the race in Australia, while he still thinks Red Bull has the edge, he also reckons this could be Ferrari’s “best shot” yet at victory in F1 2024.

“I will say that we are in a better position than the first two races,” Leclerc told Sky F1. “However, Red Bull weren’t pushing yet.

“So we’ve got to wait and see where their potential is at, but I think they are still ahead. But we might have our best shot this weekend from the beginning of the season.”

Ferrari has featured on both podiums so far this season, Carlos Sainz having finished P3 in Bahrain, while Leclerc claimed that finishing spot in Saudi Arabia.

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