Helmut Marko highlights Mercedes’ key strength as well as Ferrari’s weakness

Michelle Foster
Lewis Hamilton and George Russell, Mercedes, pursue Max Verstappen, Red Bull. Mexico, October 2022.

Mercedes drivers Lewis Hamilton and George Russell pursue Max Verstappen in the Red Bull. Mexico, October 2022.

Helmut Marko has reiterated his belief that Red Bull should fear Mercedes more than Ferrari in 2023, after all, they “have Lewis Hamilton”.

One after the other, Red Bull have taken the championship titles away from Mercedes – first, the Drivers’ in 2021 and then the Constructors’ last season in what was an impressive display from the Milton Keynes squad.

Max Verstappen and Sergio Perez claimed 17 of the 22 race wins, trouncing Ferrari and Mercedes, the latter winning just one race with George Russell P1 at the Sao Paulo Grand Prix.

This season, though, pundits – and rivals – are predicting Mercedes will bounce back.

The Brackley squad made the biggest gains of all the teams in the second half of the championship when they were finally able to work on upgrading the car having spent the first half of the season minimising their porpoising problems.

As such, Marko believes Mercedes will be Red Bull’s biggest rival come 2023, as they also have a seven-time World Champion in the mix in Hamilton.

“Definitely Mercedes,” he told Auto Motor und Sport, when asked about the challenges facing Red Bull in 2023.

“They are the more stable squad. And they have Hamilton.

“Even if they may have gone downhill last year, they are still a very special team.

“[Hamilton’s] lap times have repeatedly shown that he is a top driver. [Mercedes] is just the much stronger package than Ferrari.”

PlanetF1.com recommends

The five most entertaining drivers on the F1 2023 grid
Lewis Hamilton’s relationship with Mercedes tested with ‘bordering on dangerous’ car
2023 F1 calendar: Car launch dates, pre-season testing, TV schedule

And, Marko says, they’ve been made even stronger by the change in leadership over at Ferrari.

Ferrari announced after the chequered flag had fallen on the 2022 season, a year in which they went from championship contenders to strugglers, that team boss Mattia Binotto had tendered his resignation.

The Italian stepped down at the end of the year, Ferrari confirming former Alfa Romeo team boss Fred Vasseur as his replacement.

Marko is baffled as to why they made a change at all.

“In the case of Ferrari, I don’t quite understand the change,” he said.

“I rate Binotto as an excellent technician and politician. He was simply overwhelmed by the task.

“But it would have been enough to provide him with a sports director who would support him on the track and with strategy.

“With the new man, who has many other jobs, I see a weakening for Ferrari.”

He does, however, concede Red Bull benefitted from the blunders Ferrari made under Binotto’s leadership in the 2022 championship.

“We certainly benefited from Ferrari’s strategic mistakes, from bad luck on their side, from the engine damage,” he said.

“Over the course of the season, they developed the car in such a way that it took more and more of the tyres. That’s what made us so confident in the race.”

He added: “I think that being 46 points down after the third race gave us a ‘now more than ever’ feeling.”

But Red Bull still had to do their part, the Milton Keynes squad introducing upgrades especially aimed at taking weight off their RB18.

“In addition,” he continued, “our car was 20 kilograms overweight at the beginning. Changing that brought reliable time savings on the racetrack as soon as we were able to reduce the weight.

“The driving behaviour also changed in such a way that a Verstappen could make optimal use of it.

“And when Max can push the limit and has the confidence, it’s different to when anyone else pushes the limit.”