Marko overruled again in Hamilton penalty bid

Helmut Marko appears to have been overruled for a second time in Saudi Arabia by Red Bull over trying to elicit a penalty for Lewis Hamilton.

On Saturday, the 78-year-old Red Bull consultant had claimed an appeal would be launched after Hamilton escaped without a grid penalty for two incidents during FP3 – cleared of ignoring yellow flags and given nothing more than a reprimand for blocking Nikita Mazepin. But no appeal happened.

After the race, in which Max Verstappen incurred three separate sanctions for incidents that also involved Hamilton, Marko again was seeking punishment for the seven-time World Champion, who won the Saudi Arabian Grand Prix to draw level on points with his title rival.

The Austrian was unhappy that Hamilton had not kept within 10 car lengths of Verstappen on the lap to the grid for the first restart at the Jeddah Corniche Circuit and hinted on ServusTV that an appeal might be forthcoming.

However, race director Michael Masi stated there was no case to answer because that was not actually a formation lap, and so Red Bull are believed to have no plans to seek action against Hamilton.

Marko was also in typically feisty mood after the race regarding the collision in which Verstappen was hit from behind by Hamilton’s Mercedes while trying to surrender the lead to the Briton, a move designed to try and avert the five-second penalty that came his way.

“We hope there will be a re-assessment with the officials when we can back up our view with facts – and hopefully there will then be a punishment for the Hamilton side,” Marko is quoted as saying by Sport1.

Marko believed the evidence lay in Verstappen’s brake pressure during the incident on lap 37 of 50, with the stewards having found the Dutchman responsible of “erratic” driving.

They said Verstappen had “braked suddenly (69 bar) and significantly, resulting in 2.4g deceleration” as the “predominant cause of the collision”.

But Marko insisted: “We feel we have been treated unfairly. We are working to prove Max’s braking pressure did not increase when he crashed with Hamilton.

“Hamilton simply misjudged and drove into Max’s car. Unfortunately, that left two big cuts in our rear tyre. That’s why we couldn’t attack anymore.”

 

Red Bull are understood to have accepted all the stewards’ decisions from Saudi Arabia and will focus their attention on trying to provide Verstappen with a car in which he can finish ahead of Hamilton at the season’s finale in Abu Dhabi to secure a first Drivers’ title.

 

 

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'No excuses': Marko sets five-win target for Red Bull

Red Bull motorsports consultant Dr Helmut Marko says that the team will have no excuses if it fails to win at least five Grand Prix races in 2020.

That’s the same target he set for the squad last season. However, despite a campaign that in many ways exceeded expectations, Red Bull ultimately still fell short of that objective.

“We failed to reach our full potential [last year] since we could win at least five races,” Marko admitted to Kronen Zeitung recently.

Max Verstappen took the chequered flag on three occasions in total in Austria, Germany and Brazil. The Dutch driver also claimed his first F1 career pole position in Hungary, followed by a second in the penultimate race of the season at Interlagos.

But that was still below expectations of what was possible for the team as a whole, says Marko. “One of the reasons [we didn’t win five races is] that we have been involved in quite a few unfortunate situations and collisions.

“On the other hand, we were a little late in the development of the car,” he acknowledged. “The Honda engine and chassis only began to improve later in the season.”

Now Marko says that Red Bull must improve on last year’s hat-trick of victories this season, which will be their second using power units supplied by Honda.

“I’m sure the year 2020 will be different,” he said. “I don’t want to pin down to a specific number [of wins] but I think it should be more than five.”

Marko predicted that this year, Red Bull would be “at the front from the first race”.

Max Verstappen (NLD), Red Bull Racing

“We want to fight for the World Championship and we know that we have to be competitive with the chassis right from the start,” he told Motorsport-Total.com.

“Honda has made gains for next year,” he pointed out. “So after everything that has been achieved so far, we assume that this will happen.

“That means we have no excuses,” he added.

Another reason that Red Bull felt they were locked out of the battle for the constructors championship in 2019 was the inconsistent early season form of Pierre Gasly, who completed the first 12 races of the season as Verstappen’s team mate.

As head of Red Bull’s junior driver development programme, Marko made the call to switch Gasly with Alexander Albon. He maintains that it was the right decision for both the team and drivers involved.

“Gasly just flourished again at Toro Rosso,” Marko told Motorsport.com. “I would say it’s an opportunity, new opportunities – not in any way a ‘downgrade’.

“Fortunately for him and for us. I think he has learned his lesson and has drawn the right conclusions from those six months at Red Bull. I think he can do a lot in the future.”

Gasly went on to finish on the podium in Brazil. He stays at Toro Rosso – now renamed AlphaTauri – in 2020 alongside Daniil Kvyat, while Albon will continue to partner Verstappen at Red Bull.

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Marko: Sainz is fast, but he's no Verstappen!

Red Bull motorsport boss Helmut Marko has no regrets about not retaining Carlos Sainz in the energy drink’s bull pen, insisting the Spaniard is fast but “not a Verstappen”.

Sainz was a pure product of Red Bull’s Junior Team who rose through the junior ranks to graduate to Formula 1 in 2015 with Toro Rosso.

In his third year with the Faenza-based squad, Sainz was loaned to Renault, undertaking a full season with the French squad in 2018 before Marko released him from his contract with Red Bull, a decision which led to his move to McLaren for 2019.

Given Sainz’s good results with the Woking-based outfit and the disappointing performance of Pierre Gasly which led to last year’s mid-season swap with Alex Albon, one could be led to believe that Red Bull now views dismissing the Spaniard as a mistake. But Marko harbors no regrets.

“Carlos was confronted with one Max Verstappen,” Marko explained, speaking in his home town of Graz to Motorsport.com.

“The choice [in 2016] then actually went between the two: who do we promote? And then you get to the heart of it.

“Carlos is fast – otherwise we would not have picked him up at all – but he is not a Verstappen.”

Marko’s choice of betting on Verstappen by swapping the Dutchman with Daniil Kvyat after just four races in 2016 was validated by Verstappen’s sensational debut triumph with Red Bull Racing in Spain.

For Sainz, his former teammate’s win was likely a tough moment to endure. But Marko believes Red Bull and Sainz made the most of their relationship.

“We helped Carlos in his career and didn’t have to let him go,” added Marko.

“But we made the transition to Renault and later McLaren possible.

“We have a good relationship, but at that particular moment we also had Verstappen in the team and there are differences between them.”

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Marko 'annoyed' by Red Bull setbacks given 'fast car'

Red Bull motorsport boss Helmut Marko admitted to being frustrated by Max Verstappen’s inability to challenge for top spoils in Mexico given his car’s speed advantage on hard tyres during the race.

Verstappen’s Mexican Grand Prix suffered a setback at the outset when the Dutchman spared with Lewis Hamilton in the first corner and then picked up a puncture when dueling with Mercedes’ second driver Valtteri Bottas.

That contact forced an early pitstop on Verstappen who then fought his way through the field and back up to sixth with a spirited drive on the hard tyre.

Marko admitted Verstappen could have been a bit more careful during his skirmish with Hamilton in the first corner given his car’s speed advantage as he later demonstrated during his stint on the hard compound tyre.

“Max was two seconds faster than the leader on the race on the hard tyres,” the Austrian told Auto Motor und Sport.

“If you have such a fast car then that’s really annoying.

“That [the first corner] was a bit unfortunate. Hamilton went a little off the line and then got too close to Max who went on to the grass.

“Unfortunately, it was still a bit wet. That’s how he lost so much time.”

Referring to Hamilton’s post-race comments about the need to give Verstappen extra space during wheel-to-wheel battles, Marko suggested that the Mercedes driver had failed to do just that at Turn 1, and neither did Bottas a few laps later.

“Hamilton did not do that in the first corner, I saw him leave no extra space there,” affirmed Marko.

“Bottas could have been a bit more careful. It looked like he did not see Max. And then he slashes the tyre for us. The maneuver by Max was actually very good. But the result was unfortunately very bad.”

For Marko, the takeaway from Mexico is that despite last weekend’s disappointing result, Red Bull’s performance level will allow it to challenge for race wins in the final races of the 2019 season.

“We’ve always had a fast car except for Singapore and Russia,” he said.

“In Singapore, we spoiled the setup, in Russia, the new fuel was not available. There was a lack of power.

“But I expect that we can go for the victories on the next tracks.”

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Albon has 'confidence and direction' heading to Mexico

Red Bull driver Alexander Albon is feeling buoyed up after getting his best-ever F1 result in Suzuka, and intends to carry that success forward into Mexico.

Albon qualified for the Japanese Grand Prix with exactly the same time as his team mate Max Verstappen. And while he dropped two spots at the start, he soon battled his way back and finished in fourth place, while Verstappen retired after first lap contact with Charles Leclerc.

It’s put the London-born Thai driver in high spirits and left him hungry for more as he seeks to overhaul Pierre Gasly – his predecessor at Red Bull – the drivers championship.

“After getting my best result of the season in Japan last week, I’ve got good confidence and direction heading to Mexico,” he said in the team’s race preview this week.

“Japan felt like my best weekend with the team, and we’re gelling more and more so I look forward to carrying that momentum into Mexico.

“Historically it’s been a good track for Red Bull, with pole position and a win there last year, so obviously that’s positive.”

With just 17 Grand Prix races under his belt, Albon acknowledged that his lack of experience at a number of overseas tracks was perhaps his biggest obstacle at this stage of the season.

“Mexico and the US will be the last back to back races of the season and I can’t wait to get out there and check out both tracks.

“Like Suzuka, [the Autódromo Hermanos Rodríguez] will be another new track for me but this one looks a little more forgiving,” he said.

“I’m really excited to drive in the infield section where all the fans are, as I’ve heard that’s pretty special.”

Alexander Albon (THA) Red Bull Racing.

Meanwhile Albon has been basking in some well-earned praise for his recent outings, including from some people in the F1 paddock key to his future in the sport.

“Alex did an amazing job to match Max’s time [in qualifying,” said Red Bull boss Christian Horner. “It was his first time here at Suzuka, a really tricky, drivers circuit.”

Horner indicated that Albon was now favourite to stay with the team in 2020: “He’s certainly making a really good play for it. It’s his seat to lose in many respects and I think everything he’s done so far he’s done a super job.”

Even the team’s motorsports consultant Dr Helmut Marko gave a thumbs-up to the 23-year-old’s performance.

“Considering he was at Suzuka for the first time, he did a very good qualifying,” he told Osterreich newspaper. “He is getting better.”

But inevitably there was some criticism as well from Marko: “He has some speed to gain in the race, but he takes too long to get going.”

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Bold Marko sees Red Bull and Verstappen as title contenders in 2019

It’s an audacious prediction but Helmut Marko believes a Honda-powered Max Verstappen can deliver the championship to Red Bull next season.

The Milton Keynes-based outfit will be make the temerarious switch from Renault to Honda next season, and the Japanese manufacturer’s clear progress this season bodes well for Red Bull’ and Verstappen’s title ambitions according to Marko.

“Max never surprises us with how good he is,” Marko said after the Dutchman’s impressive run to second in last Sunday’s US Grand Prix.

“We will have the Honda engine next year and this project is very promising. I think we can fight for the championship next year,” he added.

Marko believes the senior bull outfit will reap the benefits in 2019 from the massive groundwork done by Toro Rosso this season.

“This benefits not only us but them as well,” Marko told motorsport-magazin.com.

“Honda is already ahead (of Renault), not only in qualifying but in the race too.”

The man Marko claims can go for gold is equally bullish on his prospects for next season.

“I’m very excited about next year, because Honda is obviously very fast in qualifying now,” Verstappen told Speed Week.

“Of course we want to finish this year as well as possible, but the whole team is already looking forward to the next season. Everyone is really motivated.

“The data coming from the test stands is very promising.”

Verstappen said that Honda’s complete design and engineering freedom – a stark contrast from its days with McLaren when it was forced to comply with the team’s requirements – is a big boost for the Japanese engine supplier.

“They have been able to do their own thing and build the engine to their liking. They no longer have to deal with the team they were dealing with,” he said.

“Also, some new people have come on board, the management is new, and the whole thing looks very good.

“Of course we’ll have to see how it develops, but it’s going in the right direction and I’m happy about that.”

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Toro Rosso looks set for 'guinea pig' penalties

It looks as though Toro Rosso’s 2018 campaign could be essentially over, with Red Bull apparently approving a plan to use their junior squad as a test and development operation for the rest of the season.

After 12 years with Renault, Red Bull are to follow Toro Rosso in using Honda engines next season. That means any progress that the Japanese manufacturer can make this year will directly help the senior squad in 2019.

“Of course we leave the decision to Honda,” Red Bull motorsports consultant Dr Helmut Marko told Auto Motor und Sport this week.

“But if they find a tenth with the development, of course, they can try the upgrade in the race,” he added. “Even if that means we’re taking penalties for it.”

Brendon Hartley is already on his fifth internal combustion engine, turbocharger and MGU-H. Penalties have seen him start from the back row in France and Austria, and he had been due to start even further back – from pit lane – in Britain.

Gasly is already on his fourth set of components. Introducing more upgrades on the cars will end up incurring further hefty grid penalties that will severely compromise the two drivers chances of scoring championship points.

Toro Rosso has failed to score a single point since Monaco, and slipped to eighth in the constructors championship standings as a result.

The team itself admitted that it was struggling to get to grips with the latest Honda power unit upgrade that was introduced in time for the Canadian Grand Prix in June.

Gasly described Honda’s one-second-per-lap deficit to Merceded and Ferrari at Silverstone as “crazy”.

“We still have to understand exactly how to get the best out of the Spec 2 engine,” he said.

“It’s more in terms of just pure performance and power from the engine,” he said. “I know they are working on it and they have a couple of ideas.

“I just need to give them time to bring it to the track. But at the moment we still lose quite a lot in terms of straightline speed.”

Honda’s F1 technical director Toyoharu Tanabe told Autosport magazine that they were working on improvements to the ICE.

“I hope we will have some update and improvement within this season,” he promised.

Tanabe added that they were still looking into the reason why Hartley was unable to take the start at Silverstone and whether more PU changes – and more penalties – are on the way for the Kiwi in Hockenheim.

“While fixing the car we had an issue with the installation on the power unit side that caused an improper function,” he said.

“We saw unusual data on the power unit side and we retired,” he noted. “I think the components are okay, we will check carefully for any damage.”

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