Helmut Marko, Red Bull’s advisor, has expressed his opinion on other teams’ drivers, and believes the mystery surrounding Charles Leclerc has been dispelled. In his role as head of the driver development programme for both Red Bull and AlphaTauri, Marko is well equipped to discuss the merits of the Red Bull and AlphaTauri racers, and he has also run the rule over several of their competitors. His comments about Ferrari, in particular, add to the emerging idea that Carlos Sainz’s good debut season at the Scuderia has put more pressure on his teammate Leclerc.
With four podium places and no retirements, the Spaniard got closer to the team as the 2021 season continued, eventually outscoring the Monegasque by 5.5 points over the 22 races. Regardless of what he thinks of the Ferrari and McLaren lineups, Marko still considers Max Verstappen, the 2021 World Champion, and his predecessor Lewis Hamilton to be the class of the field by a long shot.
“The declared goal is the World Championship title,” Marko told Auto Motor und Sport of his hopes for Red Bull in 2022. “[But] with such a big rule change you can never be sure. “Mercedes and we have the potential, the people and the continuity. That again speaks for a duel at the highest level. Especially as with Hamilton and Verstappen, no other driver is coming along. The closest to them is [Lando] Norris. Leclerc was, so to speak, debunked by Sainz.”
Marko has previously stated that he thought George Russell’s arrival at Mercedes would benefit Verstappen by diluting Hamilton’s title challenge by taking points away from the seven-time champion. The fact that the Mercedes duo are compatriots, according to the 78-year-old Austrian, is also a consideration. However, he believes that Russell has something to prove, given that his Sunday performances for Williams were not significantly better than those of his former teammate, Nicholas Latifi.
“Russell will certainly be a bigger challenge for Hamilton,” said Marko. “Just rhetorically and politically, because he’s also English. He is an incredibly fast driver in qualifying. In the race, however, the gap to Latifi was no longer so great. Russell has to prove himself first.”