Helmut Marko reveals how Red Bull avoided a repeat of Saudi’s niggles in Baku

Michelle Foster
Helmut Marko hugs Sergio Perez. Azerbaijan April 2023

Red Bull's Helmut Marko hugs Sergio Perez as Max Verstappen watches. Azerbaijan April 2023

Helmut Marko has revealed Red Bull did not give their drivers a delta time in the closing laps of the Azerbaijan GP, thus avoiding a repeat of Saudi Arabia.

On that Jeddah Sunday, race winner Sergio Perez was not happy with the team and questioned Red Bull’s communication after he was given a delta time in the closing laps while not only leading the race, but also having set the fastest lap.

His team-mate Max Verstappen was given the same time but ignored the radio message, taking tenths off Perez’s lead before the Mexican driver was told a faster delta time.

Adding insult to what he saw as injury, Verstappen then took the fastest lap point on the final lap of the Grand Prix – thus denying Perez a first-ever P1 in the Drivers’ standings.

Red Bull were quick to quash any suggestion of a team-mate feud and made it clear their drivers were free to race.

That was evident in Baku on Sunday when first Verstappen ran P1 and then Perez, the latter apparently asking Red Bull late in the race as he was chased by Verstappen if they could back off.

The team said no.

PlanetF1.com recommends

Updated Drivers’ and Constructors’ standings after the Azerbaijan Grand Prix

Azerbaijan GP conclusions: Perez statement, Verstappen struggles, Leclerc future

“Sergio briefly asked if he could slow down,” Marko said as per F1-Insider. “Max would have had to do that too, so we said no.

“The two also fought for the fastest lap and we let them drive at full speed. So the last laps were what we had in terms of speed.”

As it happens, Mercedes claimed the fastest lap point with George Russell, the Briton making a late pit stop for fresh soft tyres to deny Red Bull the extra point.

But, on a Sunday when many expected it would be Verstappen who came out on top, Marko revealed the reigning World Champion wasn’t happy with his RB19.

“Max was unlucky with the Safety Car and he had to experiment with his car settings to get the best out of it,” he said. “He was then able to match Sergio’s pace.

“But big compliments to Perez. He was quick right from the start, didn’t make any mistakes, and drove a perfect race.

“Max always lost three-tenths, especially in Turn 8. It was only at the end when the settings were changed that he was happy with the car and also fast, but he just couldn’t get to Sergio anymore.”

In turn, he was also being matched in the closing laps by Charles Leclerc and Fernando Alonso. That, Marko says, is a bit of a concern for Red Bull.

“In the last six to eight laps,” the Austrian added, “Leclerc and Alonso drove the same lap times as us, although we were a second faster than the rest in between. So we have to work hard and a lot to be sure that in the end, nothing happens.

“The good thing is: Alonso, Leclerc and the Mercedes drivers are fighting for third place. There’s a constant back and forth. As a result, our lead is quite good.

“But there are still 19 races to go, so we’re not thinking of any team orders either: our two drivers are both top and each have their strengths, just like Sergio on street circuits and Max on conventional circuits. One and two in the World Championship is the goal.”

Perez trails Verstappen by six points in the Drivers’ Championship.