Helmut Marko declares rivals ‘made it easy’ for Red Bull at the Bahrain Grand Prix

Michelle Foster
Max Verstappen, Red Bull, pulls a funny expression with Charles Leclerc. Bahrain, March 2023.

Max Verstappen, Red Bull, pulls a funny expression at Charles Leclerc, Ferrari. Bahrain, March 2023.

It’s one thing to be trounced, it’s another to have your nose rubbed in it, but Helmut Marko says Red Bull’s rivals, especially Ferrari, “made it easy” for the Milton Keynes squad at the Bahrain Grand Prix.

Max Verstappen kicked started his title defence with a perfect 25, the Dutchman romping to the race win on Sunday night with the same ease with which he claimed last year’s World title – unchallenged.

He crossed the line 11s ahead of Sergio Perez for a Red Bull 1-2, the Mexican driver some 27s up on the road from third placed Fernando Alonso.

It could have been a slightly different story, although not likely in the 1-2 result, had Ferrari managed to keep Charles Leclerc in the grand prix.

They, however, couldn’t do that as the Monégasque driver suffered an electrical problem that shutdown his car.

“It was a very strong race for us, but our opponents made it easy for us,” Marko said as per F1 Insider.

“Leclerc’s retirement meant we were no longer forced to go to the absolute limit and Alonso took too long to get past the other cars, but it was a duel with Hamilton that was worth seeing, old-school, tough but really fair racing.

“The temperatures were very, very high here and I don’t know if we could have driven full on, we could have had problems.”

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The Red Bull motorsport advisor also weighed in on the team’s strategy, Red Bull bucking the trend by running soft-soft-hard while their rivals went soft-hard-hard.

Marko says the math added up.

“We did the math and that was a safe bet for us in the event of a Safety Car,” he explained. “We’ve seen in the past few races that the Safety Car comes out quickly and we didn’t want to be defenceless.”

Red Bull’s dominance on Sunday was perhaps a bigger concern for their rivals given that the reigning World Champions are operating under a budget cap penalty.

They have less wind tunnel time than any other team having won last year’s Constructors’ Championship, that reduced by a further 10 percent in light of the penalty.

In Bahrain there was absolutely no sign of that having hampered them.

“The penalty came relatively early,” said Marko. “That was in Singapore, where it crystallised.

“Relatively early on, we focused on making an evolution and optimising what might not have been ideal on the old car. If we bring something into the wind tunnel, it has to work and we succeeded.

“The core of the team has been together for 15 years, they know what, how, they are in tune with each other. Of course we have a Newey, but the substructure are also highly qualified and intelligent people.”