Helmut Marko rubbishes Sergio Perez’s claims RB18 was upgraded to suit Max Verstappen

Michelle Foster
Sergio Perez and Helmut Marko speak. Monaco May 2022.

Helmut Marko chats to Sergio Perez in the Red Bull garage. Monaco May 2022.

Helmut Marko says Sergio Perez’s claims Red Bull’s upgrades for the RB18 favoured his team-mate Max Verstappen are “nonsense”.

Although Perez was closer to his Dutch team-mate at the beginning of this season than he was last year, when Verstappen’s championship bid got going he quickly dropped the Mexican driver.

Perez reckons that’s partly because the upgrades Red Bull introduced for the RB18 suited Verstappen’s style more than his own.

It’s a complaint he initially made mid-season and one he still stands by.

“I think probably so,” he told Motorsport.com after the Mexico City Grand Prix. “There are times when some upgrades are more or less beneficial and come with the handling.

“We’ve seen that with a lot of other drivers and I think the way we developed the car was more in Max’s direction.”

Marko says that’s not true, Red Bull’s sole intention with their upgrades was to lower the car’s weight.

“Of course that’s nonsense,” he told Auto Motor und Sport. “The main problem was being overweight. We’re still a little over it now.”

Pressed on whether losing weight was more of an issue than the car’s aerodynamics, the Red Bull motorsport advisor replied: “Not much was missing with the aero.”

While Perez is still involved in the battle for second place in the Drivers’ Championship, Verstappen has already wrapped up the World title.

He did so at the Japanese Grand Prix, securing it with four races to spare, and two races later set a new record for the most wins in a single season, 14.

Asked whether he believes this year’s success had ‘more to do with the driver or more with the car’, Marko said: “It depends on both.

“You saw in the early stages of the season that Max was as fast as Perez in a car that didn’t suit his driving style. If the car fits, it’s half a second faster.”

With the Drivers’ title and the Constructors’ in the bag, the team’s next target is the 1-2 in the standings.

“If you have already achieved everything else, then you go for such sweets,” Marko said. “You also need an incentive for people to keep them motivated.”

Sergio Perez versus Charles Leclerc

Sergio Perez is up against Charles Leclerc in the fight for P2, the Mexican driver five points ahead with two races remaining.

That’s 60 points in total as the Brazilian Grand Prix weekend also includes a sprint race with the win worth eight points.

Neither driver has set the stage alight since the summer break, Sundays dominated by Verstappen with his six wins in seven races.

But although the missing one, Singapore, went to Perez, he hasn’t been able to pull clear of Leclerc. The gap was five points in the Red Bull driver’s favour after Belgium and it is five points today.

Perez has already made it clear he doesn’t want any pity wins from Verstappen as he chases P2, the driver determined to win on merit but if he wants that runner-up spot, he may need his team-mate’s help.

Ferrari are likely to do just that with Carlos Sainz as he is down in sixth with very little but pride at stake.

If Perez wants an even fight, and perhaps more to the point if Red Bull want complete domination of the standings, he’s going to need to go up against Ferrari two against two.

Read more: Red Bull’s ex-engineering chief thinks Max Verstappen is still ‘weak technically’