Red Bull’s Helmut Marko believes playing the percentage game to maintain the World Championship lead is not in Max Verstappen’s nature.
After a dominant victory at the Mexican Grand Prix, Verstappen now holds a 19-point advantage over title rival Lewis Hamilton at the top of the Drivers’ Championship.
At this stage, Verstappen could be forgiven for thinking it is all a case of self-preservation rather than going full attack for the ultimate reward.
But Marko, Red Bull’s driver programme chief, knows that is a mindset that does not exist for Verstappen, while he also is not sure it is an effective one.
Referring to how Ayrton Senna crashed out of the lead at the 1988 Monaco Grand Prix, which he was leading by nearly a minute and lost concentration as he eased up, Marko fears such a mindset could be detrimental to Verstappen.
“He will go for the win in every race,” Marko told F1-Insider.com.
“Paying attention to placings and points in order to win the title at the end is pointless. That’s not in his blood.
“Besides, experience shows if you take it slower than you are used to, the margin for error can go up.”
Tactically easing off to play the numbers game is also easier said than done for Verstappen and Red Bull considering their challengers, they being Mercedes and Lewis Hamilton who have each reached the summit of Formula 1 seven times respectively.
And so acknowledging the threat Mercedes continue to pose, Marko wants a “double victory” at the upcoming Brazilian Grand Prix, that being P1 in sprint qualifying and then the race.
“Mercedes is an extremely strong opponent,” said Marko.
“We have to keep up the pressure and set ourselves high goals. That’s why we want a double victory in Sao Paulo.”
Verstappen had always been regarded as a future star of Formula 1 but throughout the 2021 campaign, his first title challenge, the Dutchman has continued to show nerves of steel against the sport’s most victorious driver, 100-time race winner Hamilton.
And despite having worked with Verstappen in the Red Bull team since 2016, Marko admits the 24-year-old “still surprises us”.
“Max still surprises us. You think he’s already at his peak and then he goes one better. It’s unbelievable what capacity he has at such a relatively young age,” said Marko.
While the Red Bull celebrations were wild in Mexico, Marko sadly felt a little under the weather due to a stomach bug know as ‘Montezuma’s revenge’.
Fortunately though, the Austrian confirmed he will be “fit again in Sao Paulo”.