Red Bull dominance over? Marko predicts when real moment of truth will arrive

Oliver Harden
Max Verstappen attacks the swimming pool chicane on a quick lap in Monaco

Max Verstappen in the Red Bull RB20

Helmut Marko has admitted Red Bull will “have a problem” if the RB20 is uncompetitive at the Spanish Grand Prix later this month after Max Verstappen’s father Jos claimed the team’s dominance is over.

Having produced the most dominant campaign in history in F1 2023, winning all but one of the 22 races, Red Bull had been expected to dominate once again this year.

Helmut Marko expects Spanish GP to provide clearer Red Bull picture

Verstappen appeared to be easing to a fourth consecutive World Championship after winning four of the first five races of F1 2024, including three one-two finishes for Red Bull in Bahrain, Saudi Arabia and Japan.

However, Red Bull have appeared increasingly vulnerable in recent weeks with McLaren and Ferrari winning in Miami and Monaco respectively.

Verstappen could only manage sixth in Monte Carlo and now sits just 31 points ahead of Charles Leclerc in the Drivers’ standings, with the Dutchman’s father Jos claiming the result signalled the end of Red Bull’s period of dominance.

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Verstappen Sr told Dutch publication De Telegraaf: “For sure there will be other tracks where Red Bull will do well again, but I am very curious [to see] how they will solve these problems.

“They will have to do something about it, understand where certain difficulties come from. Meanwhile, it is clear that McLaren and Ferrari are getting closer and closer.

“Max has been good at hiding some of the problems, but you can see how big the difference is between him and his team-mate.

“It seems to me that Red Bull’s period of dominance has come to an end.”

Red Bull are expected to struggle again at next weekend’s Canadian Grand Prix, where the RB20 is unlikely to be suited to the bumps and kerbs of the Montreal circuit.

Speaking to German publication Sport1, long-serving Red Bull adviser Marko admitted Red Bull will know they’re in trouble if the car is uncompetitive later this month at Barcelona, where Verstappen won from pole position by 24 seconds in F1 2023.

He said: “If we change the height, we lose a lot of drive. That’s why we are limited in this area.

“However, we believe that we will still be superior on conventional tracks like Barcelona. If not, then we do indeed have a problem.”

With Ferrari and McLaren posing an ever-greater threat, Marko is confident that Verstappen – the winner of 49 of the last 74 races stretching back to the start of his maiden title-winning campaign in F1 2021 – will make the difference at some venues where Red Bull could struggle.

He added: “I believe that the Verstappen factor will also be decisive on tracks that are less favourable for us.

“He is in top form and makes the difference. There is no other driver who can drive at the limit on every lap of the race without making mistakes.”

Marko’s comments come after Verstappen claimed that no other driver on the F1 2024 grid would have salvaged sixth place in Monaco, where he likened the RB20 to a go-kart given its struggles in absorbing kerb strikes, camber changes and bumps.

Speaking to media including in Monaco last weekend, Verstappen claimed Red Bull’s recent success would make the team difficult to beat in a World Championship fight, with Ferrari and McLaren both without a title triumph of any kind since 2008.

He said: “Being at the front for quite a few years and as a team, the way we operate, I think it can make a difference to teams that are trying to chase that.

“We just try to stay calm and collected, we know that over the last few races teams have been catching up or have beaten us, so of course we want to try and improve as well.

“But I do think with the experience that we’ve had over the last few years, it makes us a very tough team to beat in a Championship, because we don’t make many mistakes.

“You try to always optimise everything and that [applies], I think, to life in general. You keep on learning, you keep trying to be better.

“But I think that does make us very dangerous in a championship fight.”

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