Helmut Marko predicts Red Bull vs Aston Martin showdown in Bahrain
Red Bull advisor Helmut Marko sees Aston Martin as their only true threat at the season-opening Bahrain Grand Prix.
Both of these teams went into this opening weekend with a great deal of momentum, Red Bull viewed as still the leading outfit following testing as they look to further build on a dominant title double in 2022, while Aston Martin were the talk of the paddock after the three-day Bahrain test.
There was chatter that Aston Martin could even be in the group looking to chase Red Bull down, and the opening day of the race weekend added further weight to that suggestion as Fernando Alonso topped FP2, putting the Aston Martin AMR23 close to two-tenths clear of the Red Bulls.
And so, Marko believes it is Aston Martin who pose the biggest threat to Red Bull at this opening round of F1 2023.
“I believe it’s Aston Martin, and I believe Alonso can have a podium here,” Marko told Sky Sports News.
It is interesting that Marko says podium, as confidence remains high at Red Bull despite a tricky Friday.
Reigning World Champion Max Verstappen fought back from a “really bad” FP1 to finish runner-up to Alonso in the afternoon session, with his pace over a long run serving as a positive surprise.
Marko branded it “impressive”, and so Alonso’s FP2 showing has not dented Red Bull’s confidence.
“We had some setup problems, the car changed significantly from the test,” said Marko.
“But step by step, I think we improved and the long run from Max was impressive. So we are still confident, yes.”
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Conspicuous by their absence in this equation so far are Ferrari and Mercedes, the teams which alongside Red Bull form the top three based on last year’s standings.
Marko though does not see either team as a threat in Bahrain, noting that Ferrari and Mercedes are degrading their tyres much more severely than both Red Bull and Aston Martin.
“What we have seen so far, no,” said Marko when asked if Ferrari and Mercedes are in the fight?
“It seems their cars are not as balanced and that their degradation is far higher than it is with us or Aston Martin.”