Helmut Marko’s silver lining despite Max Verstappen being ‘disappointed and annoyed’ at DNF

Thomas Maher
Helmut Marko, Red Bull, 2024 Saudi Arabian Grand Prix.

Helmut Marko is glad questions over Red Bull's potential 2024 achievements can stop already.

If there’s one positive for Red Bull to take from Max Verstappen’s retirement in Australia, putting an end to endless questions is what Helmut Marko is clinging to.

Max Verstappen’s retirement on the third lap of last weekend’s Australian Grand Prix, due to a rear brake issue on his RB20, quashed any possibility of the Dutch driver breaking his own record of 10 consecutive race victories, right as he reached the possibility of matching it.

Helmut Marko: At least we’ll no longer be asked about winning every race

With Red Bull a relentless winning machine throughout 2023 as they ticked off victory after victory, the possibility of winning every single race on the calendar – a feat never before achieved – became a reality.

McLaren’s 1988 campaign was the closest, winning 15 of 16 races, and it took until the 15th race of 2023 for Red Bull’s streak to end. Failing to unlock the RB19’s potential on the streets of Singapore, victory was claimed by Ferrari’s Carlos Sainz.

It ended up being Red Bull’s sole defeat in 2023, with 21 of 22 races meaning a fractionally higher win percentage (95.45 percent) than McLaren’s 1988 tally (93.75 percent).

With Red Bull taking dominant 1-2s in Bahrain and Saudi Arabia to kick off the 2024 season, the possibility of matching or beating that tally was one that could have hung over the team all year – only for Verstappen’s DNF to end the possibility of winning every race.

It’s this silver lining that Marko is clinging to as a result, admitting that he’s glad the issue was “resolved” so early in the year.

“Until the retirement, the atmosphere in the team was as I know it, full of fighting spirit,” he told Speedweek in his race column.

“After that we were a bit sad, but at least we are no longer constantly being asked whether we will win all the races. I’m glad that this issue was resolved so early on.”

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Helmut Marko: There was no sign of superiority

Marko also explained that Verstappen had been left highly annoyed by the DNF, having overcome a tough start to the weekend to rebound and take pole position with a stellar effort in Q3.

“In the last 24 hours on the flight home from Australia to Europe, I had enough time to think about the last time we were stranded due to technical problems,” he said.

“In fact, it must have been in 2022! We still have to find out exactly what caused Max’s brake failure, as the majority of the team is still scattered around the world back from Melbourne.

“Unfortunately, our weekend in Australia didn’t get off to a good start in practice. We were clearly behind. There was no sign of the superiority we had in the first two races.

“The fact that we still managed to do so well in qualifying with first place for Max and sixth for Checo [Perez] was a fantastic team performance.

“In the race, Max said he could have easily matched Sainz’s pace at the front. That’s why he was disappointed and annoyed about the retirement.”

With Ferrari and Sainz capitalising on Red Bull’s misfortunes to, once again, claim the win in their stead, it led Red Bull boss Christian Horner to brand the Spaniard Red Bull’s nemesis.

Marko also assessed the situation similarly, saying it’s clear the Scuderia are the main rival for Red Bull to worry about at present.

“Nevertheless, the great balance of power was confirmed in Australia: Ferrari is the clear number 2 behind us,” he said.

“Mercedes is inconsistent, McLaren works better or worse depending on the track.”

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