Red Bull advisor Helmut Marko has opened up about the strengths, and weaknesses, of Red Bull drivers past and present.
Marko is a confidant of Dietrich Mateschitz, the billionaire owner of the Red Bull and AlphaTauri F1 teams, and has been a familiar face in the paddock since the energy drink giant entered the sport. The Austrian is never afraid to voice an opinion, even if it is an unpopular one, and he has opened about current and former Red Bull drivers in an edition of the Red Bulletin, Red Bull’s in-house magazine.
He didn’t hold back on his assessment of Alex Albon and Pierre Gasly, drivers who were promoted from Toro Rosso (AlphaTauri’s previous name) to the Red Bull squad, only to be dropped after struggling in the face of competition from Max Verstappen.
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Both remain in the Red Bull stable, although it appears unlikely that they will return to the top team. Albion has been loaned out to Williams while Gasly is back with AlphaTauri. On Albon, Marko said: “Alex is very fast, but I wonder if he’s too nice. He’s a bit like David Coulthard [another former Red Bull driver], who everyone likes, but wasn’t tough enough in the end.”
On Gasly, he added: “He is the team leader and doing incredible things. Like his compatriot Francois Cevert [who raced in the 1970s], he is fast, cheeky and devoted to the beautiful things in life. However, when talking about his spell at Red Bull, he added: “he looked for excuses instead of tackling his own mistakes.”
Albon was dropped by the senior team at the end of 2020, with the more experienced Sergio Perez taking his place. Like his predecessors, the Mexican has struggled to match the relentless pace of Verstappen, although he has produced some strong performances so far this year and won in Monaco.
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Marko hinted Perez is something of an outsider, saying: “He arrived with a win under his belt [with Force India in Bahrain in 2020], and he was in a positive mood. Then he met Max. This led to a certain amount of uncertainty, especially in qualifying.
“He chooses his own hotels and lives within the team with his own advisors. I don’t know exactly what they all do, but they are very nice people.”
Marko also spilt the beans on two drivers who have severed ties with Red Bull – Sebastian Vettel and Daniel Ricciardo. Vettel won four straight F1 titles with the team and Marko said: “He made ultimate use of all technical possibilities. This was also why he ultimately had the upper hand over a talented Mark Webber.”
On Ricciardo, whose career has stalled since he moved to Renault and then McLaren, Marko said: “In his first year at Red Bull, he beat Vettel by three wins to nil. Max coming on the scene was a crunch point in his career. Rather than taking up the fight, he wanted to keep his distance. And you know what happened next. That’s too bad.
“He was always nice to work with. His speed is comparable to that of Max, but he’s just lacking that ultimate consistency.”
Carlos Sainz is another driver who left the Red Bull stable following a spell as Verstappen’s teammate at Toro Rosso, where the pair didn’t get on.
“It was his bad luck to get Max as a teammate,” said Marko. “The atmosphere between the two at Toro Rosso was quite toxic. In the setup we had at the time, I couldn’t see a way of keeping him with us, and so he moved to Renault, McLaren and then on to Ferrari.”
On Verstappen, Marko was predictably glowing in his praise, claiming that there is “no one quicker over a single lap”.
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