‘On a par with Max Verstappen’ – Helmut Marko lauds Red Bull 2025 contender after Suzuka performance

Jamie Woodhouse
Red Bull's Helmut Marko on the phone in Bahrain.

Helmut Marko is on the phone.

Red Bull driver programme boss Helmut Marko waxed lyrical about Yuki Tsunoda’s performance on home soil, as the RB driver continues to make a case for earning a Red Bull promotion.

Few believed Tsunoda had any chance of being considered for a Red Bull seat as he went into F1 2024 – his fourth F1 season with their junior team – but the Japanese racer has been turning heads in the opening four rounds, which have seen Tsunoda score all seven of RB’s points so far.

Yuki Tsunoda matches Max Verstappen with Japanese GP performance

After eight-time race winner Daniel Ricciardo was confirmed as his F1 2024 team-mate, few expected Tsunoda to win that intra-team battle with Ricciardo earmarked for a 2025 Red Bull comeback, though Tsunoda has had the beating of his decorated team-mate thus far, that continuing at Suzuka where Tsunoda delighted his home fans by squeezing into the top 10.

And Marko was certainly impressed, claiming that Tsunoda’s showing was “on a par” with that of Red Bull’s Japanese GP winner and three-time World Champion Max Verstappen, plus Fernando Alonso, who ranked his drive to P6 from P5 on the grid in his Aston Martin as one of his top five career performances.

“Yuki got away sensationally well at the second start,” Marko wrote in his Speedweek column, that second start triggered by Ricciardo and Alex Albon colliding on the opening lap.

“His overtaking manoeuvres were the show of the day. The fans were completely over the moon.

“His weekend was on a par with Max, Alonso and co. Faultless, a super performance under the pressure of his home race.”

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Red Bull currently find themselves with a luxury problem when it comes to their 2025 driver plans, as while Tsunoda is shining and reserve driver Liam Lawson is searching for his opening, Verstappen’s current team-mate Sergio Perez is also on top form, having played his part in three Red Bull 1-2 finishes out of four races.

Marko describes this as Perez’s “best season with us” yet.

Talents outside the Red Bull programme such as Alonso and Ferrari’s Carlos Sainz have also been linked with joining the team, though Marko says no decision is coming in the near future, as Red Bull will not get drawn into the driver market “games” which he believes are taking place.

He said: “The fact that the transfer rumour mill is already boiling at the beginning of April is, in my opinion, due to several factors. Firstly, [Lewis] Hamilton announced his switch to Ferrari so early.

“And if you can trust Radio Paddock, Audi wants a decision from Carlos Sainz very soon. Aston Martin is also putting pressure in several directions.

“We are not taking part in these games. We won’t hear from Red Bull Racing until the middle of the season how things are going in terms of personnel.”

Neither Ricciardo nor Tsunoda currently have a contract for the 2025 campaign.

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