Helmut Marko has declared Max Verstappen as Red Bull’s “very clear number one” – but Sergio Perez should not be too worried because when Sebastian Vettel was winning it was actually Mark Webber.
Although teams are often loath to declare a number one and two driver, insisting both can fight for wins and World titles, Verstappen has taken ownership of that at Red Bull with his race-winning form.
Winning 11 of 16 races so far this season, the reigning World Champion is cruising towards retaining the World title and could do it as early as this weekend’s Singapore Grand Prix.
But that does not mean Perez, already signed to Red Bull for the next two seasons, should despair at the prospect of another two years of being number two.
Speaking to Austrian channel ORF, Marko spoke about the differences between Red Bull’s last title run, which was at the hands of Vettel, and today’s with Verstappen.
Back in 2010 when Vettel clinched his first title, he came from behind to beat Fernando Alonso and his own team-mate Webber even though it was the Australian who was Red Bull’s lead driver at the time.
Vettel went on to win four successive titles while Webber walked away from Red Bull and Formula 1 after the German’s fourth, their relationship in tatters.
Today, as Verstappen romps towards his second title in a row, Red Bull have a much clearer hierarchy and the harmony that comes with it.
“In 2009, neither Sebastian nor we were ready to fight for the World Championship, but then those four years came,” said 79-year-old Marko.
“I think there is less pressure on the team now. The team has also shown what it can do in all processes, as we always have the quickest pit-stops.
“With this level of security, it’s also easier for the driver. Now we have a very clear number one position.
“In the Vettel era it was Mark Webber, but there was a strong rivalry that affected the harmony.
“In that sense, Max has a better and perfectly adapted package.”
Verstappen is, according to Marko, also a much calmer driver today than he was in yesteryear when he was close to “freaking out” if he was not at the very top of the timesheets.
“Max now drives faster with less risk and also with less wear to the equipment,” Marko said.
“In the past, if something didn’t work out on Friday, he was close to freaking out. He sees it very differently now.
“We would be working hard for the race, which bothered Max a lot a year or two ago. He just always wanted to be P1. But what is most important, of course, is victory.
“Now, if you know it’s possible, you can live with second or third on the grid.”