Helmut Marko responds after Max Verstappen steals fastest lap point from Sergio Perez

Michelle Foster
Max Verstappen explains to Sergio Perez while the race winner drinks a Red Bull. Saudi Arabia March 2023

Snatching the fastest lap away from Sergio Perez despite Red Bull telling their drivers to keep to a certain pace was “typical Max” Verstappen says Helmut Marko.

Heading into the final two laps of the Saudi Arabian Grand Prix with Perez leading Verstappen by five seconds, the Mexican driver says the team “told me I had the fastest lap and to keep the pace, a certain pace.”

His team-mate didn’t get the same memo, or didn’t listen to it.

He asked Red Bull who had the fastest lap time and was told they’re “not concerned with that”. He replied, “but I am” and promptly went for it.

Setting the fastest lap time on the very last lap of the grand prix, Verstappen claimed the one extra point that separates him and Perez in the World Championship race.

Perez wasn’t happy, saying he thought the “communication was the same to Max, so it’s something we need to review. Because I certainly got different information.”

Marko, though, shrugged it off.

According to the Red Bull motorsport advisor, his drivers “stuck” to the team’s instructions “relatively well.”

He added to ORF: “Typical Max on the last lap with the fastest race lap. That was uncontrollable. That’s just Max.

“Both were constantly asking who had the fastest lap and Max, of course, has to the last waited a moment so that Perez could no longer counter.

“It means the lead in the world championship for him.”

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‘Typical Max’ agrees Nico Rosberg

Nico Rosberg agrees that was very “typical Max”.

Although the drivers were set a target time by Red Bull, initially 1:33 before Perez was told 1:32.6 given that Verstappen had not backed off, the Dutchman still went for it with a 1:31.906 on the very last lap.

“That’s typical Max,” he told Sky Deutschland. “He always tries to get the maximum out of it.

“Sergio had the same opportunity. Christian Horner said it, only Sergio didn’t make it in terms of the lap time.”

He, however, reckons Perez should still be happy with his P1 at the Saudi Arabian Grand Prix.

“Nevertheless, Sergio had a phenomenal racing speed,” he added. “Max didn’t manage to catch him at the end. One of Perez’s best races. Victory is good.”

‘Checo gave it up after the first couple of turns’

According to team boss Horner, Perez also went for the fastest lap on the very last lap of the grand prix as he knew Verstappen was going to do it.

But unlike his team-mate, he didn’t have the pace to maintain it and “gave up” after just a few corners.

“Both drivers had the info of Checo had the fastest lap at that point,” Horner revealed.

“He asked what it was, so it was obvious why he was asking, he knew that Max was going to have a crack at it, and Checo gave it up after the first couple of turns, he was already a tenth and a half down and then you saw him back out of it.

“Inevitably, as Max said on the radio, the point for the fastest lap meant a great deal to him. And there was no reason for us not to let either he or Checo have a crack at it.”

After two rounds Verstappen leads the standings on 44 points, one ahead of Perez.