Helmut Marko says it was a blessing in disguise that Sergio Perez did not make the ideal restart to the Azerbaijan Grand Prix.
The remaining runners lined up on the grid for a two-lap shootout in Baku after the race had been stopped due to Max Verstappen’s tyre blowout.
Perez, trying to keep Red Bull’s victory hopes alive, lined up in the pole-position slot with Lewis Hamilton’s Mercedes, complete with smoking brakes, alongside him on the front row.
Hamilton had the better start and got ahead, looking set to take the lead out of Turn 1 when his W12 suddenly went straight on and into the escape road. The Briton had accidentally knocked the ‘magic’ switch, an action that affected his brake balance.
With the seven-time World Champion out of the picture, Perez was able to go on and record his second F1 race win and Red Bull’s third of the season to supplement Verstappen’s two.
But Marko, Red Bull advisor and their head of driver development, knows luck was on the Mexican’s side in avoiding being cleaned out by the Mercedes.
Asked how greatly concerned the team had been that Hamilton would win and capitalise fully on his World Championship rival Verstappen’s unfortunate exit, Marko said in an interview with Auto Motor und Sport: “It was very great and very justified.
“Thank god Perez had spinning wheels at the restart. If he had got away better, Hamilton would have taken him out with him. Luck of the draw.”
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Marko also revealed exactly how close Perez had been to not reaching the chequered flag, with the driver being told to stop his RB16B on track after crossing the line rather than going all the way around the circuit once more to return to the pit lane.
“50-50,” was the 78-year-old Austrian’s assessment. “His car simply lost hydraulic fluid. It happened earlier in the race. When the car was stationary during the interruption, it kept dripping.
“He turned it off to be on the safe side. It’s impossible to say exactly when the failure would have occurred. At some point, he would no longer have had power steering. That would have triggered a chain reaction.”
Marko now sees Perez making the progress Red Bull wanted from him when they signed him for this season, saying: “He integrates very well in the team – he’s a very good team player.”